After the Salt Lake City Council, with support of LDS Church leaders, passed two anti-discrimination ordinances for gays in housing and employment on November 10th, 2009, the Deseret News and KSL Channel 5 engaged pollster Dan Jones to find out how this move affected Utah attitudes statewide. And the resultant poll of 408 Utahns taken from November 19-23 showed that 69 percent of respondents believe the state should extend Salt Lake's ordinances statewide.
The specific numbers:
-- Definitely Should: 47 percent
-- Probably Should: 22 percent
-- Probably Should Not: 13 percent
-- Definitely Should Not: 15 percent
-- Don't Know: 2 percent
In addition, 67 percent of respondents who identified as LDS either responded with Definitely Should or Probably Should. KSL news video embedded below:
Of course, the question is, how much did official LDS support for Salt Lake's ordinances affect the results? Back in January 2009, two other pollsters took Utah's pulse on this same issue. Mason-Dixon Polling & Research polled 500 registered Utah voters from January 8-9, and asked the following question:
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
And Information Alliance asked 600 registered Utah voters from January 8-14 twelve opinion questions about gay issues. Here are the three most pertinent:
-- 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.
In general, most Utahns remain moderately to strongly opposed to extending any other "rights" or benefits to gays. So it appears that during the past 11 months, support for gay nondiscrimination in housing and employment has increased by as much as 13 percent, and by as much as 18 percent among LDS-only. The latter figure implies that LDS support for Salt Lake's ordinances did have a noticeable effect.
Openly-gay Rep. Christine Johnson (D-Salt Lake) was gushing with delight. She unsuccessfully sponsored similar anti-discrimination bills during the 2009 legislative session, and plans on sponsoring similar legislation during the 2010 session which begins on January 25th.
But several GOP legislative leaders prefer to leave gay discrimination in housing and employment alone in the 2010 session, instead waiting to see if other local governments will take up the cause, as Salt Lake City has done. Rep. Carl Wimmer (R-Herriman) is one conservative who cautions restraint, although he has moved away from saying the legislature should outlaw Salt Lake City-type ordinances. Wimmer also said he worries that the city's ordinance or a Johnson bill would not adequately protect private property owners' rights or local businessmen's concerns. Wimmer opined that it would be wrong to step on one person's rights to aid another's.
While Governor Gary Herbert also favors nondiscrimination protection for gays in housing and employment, he prefers to give cities and counties the first option to do it for themselves rather than ramrod a state law down their throats.