Sunday, January 25, 2009

Two Utah Polls Show Utahns Sympathetic Towards Increased Gay Benefits, But Still Skeptical Of Gay Adoption And Strongly Opposed To Gay Marriage

As part of Equality Utah's campaign to promote their Common Ground Initiative, which is a series of proposed bills designed to confer more benefits upon gays and possibly serve as a Trojan horse for gay marriage in Utah, two polls were conducted to take Utah's political pulse on the issue. And both polls deliver the same message - increasing benefits are possible, but same-sex couples adoption is unlikely, and gay marriage itself may be absolutely impossible.

The first poll, commissioned by the Salt Lake Tribune and discussed on their Utah Politics blog, was conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research from January 8-9, and asked 500 registered Utah voters three questions about gay issues. The pollster also asked voters to identify whether they were LDS or non-LDS (60.7 percent of Utahns are LDS as of 2007). Here are the results (an estimated 4.5 percent margin of error):

Increasing legal protections for same-sex couples (short of marriage):

-- Yes: 56 percent
-- No: 40 percent
-- Undecided: 4 percent

-- LDS only: 49 percent Yes, 48 percent No, 3 percent Undecided
-- Non-LDS only: 68 percent Yes, 26 percent No, 6 percent Undecided

Allow unmarried couples, including gay couples, to adopt children under certain conditions:

-- Yes: 35 percent
-- No: 54 percent
-- Not Sure: 11 percent

-- LDS only: 24 percent Yes, 67 percent No, 9 percent Not Sure
-- Non-LDS only: 55 percent Yes, 30 percent No, 15 percent Not Sure

Amend the state constitution to permit civil unions (to be accomplished by removing some restrictive language from Amendment 3):

-- Yes: 25 percent
-- No: 70 percent
-- Undecided: 5 percent

-- LDS only: 12 percent Yes, 85 percent No, 3 percent Undecided
-- Non-LDS only: 48 percent Yes, 43 percent No, 9 percent Undecided

The second poll, commissioned by Equality Utah and discussed in this Salt Lake Tribune story, was conducted by Information Alliance from January 8-14, asked 600 registered Utah voters 12 opinion questions about gay issues. Here are some highlights (an estimated 4.0 percent margin of error):

-- 63 percent say gay and lesbian couples should be provided some legal protections.
-- 62 percent support making it illegal to fire workers because they are gay.
-- 56.5 percent support making it illegal to deny housing because a person is gay.
-- 73 percent support optional health benefits for a state employee's spouse, partner or designated adult.
-- 49 percent oppose creating a statewide domestic-partner registry (31.5 percent support it).
-- 55 percent oppose letting gay couples foster or adopt children.
-- 52 percent support allowing gay adults adopt a partner's child.
-- 20.5 percent say gay couples should be allowed to legally marry.

Equality Utah has posted the full results of the Information Alliance poll HERE. An examination of the results shows good correlation with Utah's demographics, except for gender. Poll respondents were shown to be 61.2 percent female, and only 38.8 percent male (Utah is only 49.9 percent female). This would tend to slightly bias the poll in favor of gay rights, since women tend to be more favorably disposed towards gay rights than men.

Nevertheless, despite the gender bias in the Information Alliance poll, both polls tend to deliver the same message - increasing benefits O.K., gay adoption iffy, and gay marriage no freaking way. As a result, organized opposition to the Common Ground Initiative has taken the field. United Families Utah (UFUT), a chapter of the Gilbert, AZ-based United Families International, has launched a petition campaign to stop the Common Ground Initiative in its tracks. They explain their justification HERE.

-- Click HERE to sign petition. One does NOT need to be a Utah resident to sign the petition.

By now, you must be wondering just what in hell is this Common Ground Initiative specifically. From the Equality Utah website, we get the specific goals of Common Ground:

(1). Expanding Health Care: Mandate that public employer insurance plans which extend benefits to an employee’s spouse, also cover an employees partner. No specific legislation found as of this post, although this could be covered under Rep. Christine Johnson's catchall "Antidiscrimination Amendments". A possibly related bill is HB17, promoted by Rep. Jennifer Seelig. [This has a chance to pass.]

(2). Fair Employment: Add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of characteristics that employers may not consider when making decisions about employment. Legislation submitted by Rep. Christine Johnson (D-Salt Lake) under the title of
"Antidiscrimination Amendments"; not yet approved and designated as of this post. [This has a chance to pass.]

(3). Fair Housing: Add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of characteristics that landlords may not consider when making decisions about eviction. Legislation submitted by Rep. Christine Johnson (D-Salt Lake) under the title of
"Antidiscrimination Amendments"; not yet approved and designated as of this post. [This has a chance to pass.]

(4). Wrongful Deaths: Remove some existing barriers to inheritance and insurance. Legislation submitted by Sen. Scott McCoy (D-Salt Lake); approved and designated as
SB32. [This has a good chance to pass and is actually worthy of support. This is probably the only part of the initiative I'd vote for.]

(5). Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act: Create a domestic partner registry and attach rights of inheritance, insurance, and fair housing. Now approved and designated HB160, Declaration of Joint Support. [This may not pass.]

(6). Clarifying Amendment 3: While this provision would NOT establish gay marriage, it could be a critical step towards undermining Utah's constitutional definition of marriage by repealing that portion of Amendment 3 which states “no other domestic union, however denominated, may be recognized as marriage or be given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect.” Legislation submitted by Rep. Jackie Biskupski (D-Salt Lake) as a
"Joint Resolution"; not yet approved and designated. [Not only will this NOT pass, but it should be squashed in committee.]

The support for the Common Ground Initiative continues to mobilize. On Saturday January 24th, 200 people braved inclement weather to march in support of it. With the state legislature session scheduled to begin on January 26th, opponents haven't much time to marshal opposition. The time to act is now.

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