by Steve Sanders, Associate Professor of Law, Maurer School of Law, and affiliated faculty in political science, Indiana University Bloomington
Going back at least to 1977, majorities of Americans have agreed that gays and lesbians “should … have equal rights in terms of job opportunities.” The number hit 89 percent in 2004. Gallup apparently stopped asking the question in 2008, perhaps because the social consensus was so overwhelming that there was nothing useful to be learned from further polling.
If American government operated the way civics books tell us it does, Congress, acting on such an overwhelming public preference, would long ago have enacted federal legislation outlawing employment discrimination against gays and lesbians.
But Congress does not work this way. Constituent preferences do not always get translated into policy. For example, Congress has shown a longstanding and “persistent bias against constituent will on LGB rights,” and “Republicans consistently oppose” such rights “regardless of constituent preferences.” Legislators also know most people don’t pay much attention (except in the most extraordinary situations, such as Ryan/Trumpcare) to what Congress does or does not do. And as Ilya Somin has been documenting for years, too many Americans are ignorant about politics and public affairs.