A just-concluded Mason-Dixon Poll commissioned by the Salt Lake Tribune shows a significant increase in the number of Utahns who support extending nondiscrimination protection to gays. Primary story in the Salt Lake Tribune; additional story by KSL Channel 5.
View Salt Lake Tribune graphic HERE.
The survey of 625 frequent Utah voters, taken from January 18-20, shows that 67 percent favor employment protections and safeguards for same-sex couples such as hospital visitation and inheritance rights. Remarkably, that's an increase of 11 percent over a similar poll taken by Mason-Dixon in January 8-9, 2009. On the other end of the scale, 65 percent of respondents still oppose civil unions for gay couples, down slightly from 70 percent in 2009, and the percentage of those supporting gay adoption actually declined by two points, so there are still limits to the degree of tolerance for homosexuality.
The primary reason for the shift in opinion about nondiscrimination is the support expressed officially in November 2009 by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for Salt Lake City's two gay nondiscrimination ordinances. The Church's position facilitated same-day passage of both ordinances. Although the LDS Church merely opposes civil rights discrimination; it has not changed its doctrinal attitude towards the practice of homosexuality.
But Quin Monson, associate director of Brigham Young University's Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, believes Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker deserves some credit, too. While the LDS Church's endorsement influenced many members of the faith, opinions among non-Mormons changed as well. Becker's more collaborative, consensus-building approach contrasts favorably with predecessor Rocky Anderson's combative, confrontational approach. Monson also thinks this opinion shift will get the attention of the state legislature and the governor, but the legislature intends on deferring any action towards extending nondiscrimination protection to gays statewide for at least a year.
Brandie Balken, executive director of Equality Utah, noted the continued low approval rate for gay adoptions. "That's an area where we need to continue to do work, to educate people about how happy and healthy our families are and how happy and healthy our kids are," said Balken. On the other end of the scale, a pro-family group called America Forever sent out a fax on a related subject to Uintah Elementary School a few days earlier. The fax denounced Reed Cowan's recent attack on Senator Chris Buttars as well as the screening of Cowan's ""8: The Mormon Proposition" at the Sundance Film Festival. You can view the fax HERE.
The poll results are posted below, including figures from the 2009 poll for comparison. I have condensed the poll questions.
Increasing legal protections for same-sex couples (short of marriage):
-- Yes: 67 percent now, 56 percent in 2009
-- No: 23 percent now, 40 percent in 2009
-- Undecided: 10 percent now, 4 percent in 2009
-- LDS only: 59 percent Yes now, 49 percent Yes in 2009
-- Non-LDS only: 84 percent Yes now, 68 percent Yes in 2009
Allow unmarried couples, including gay couples, to adopt children under certain conditions:
-- Yes: 33 percent now, 35 percent in 2009
-- No: 50 percent now, 54 percent in 2009
-- Not Sure: 17 percent now, 11 percent in 2009
Amend the state constitution to permit civil unions (to be accomplished by removing some restrictive language from Amendment 3):
-- Yes: 28 percent now, 25 percent in 2009
-- No: 65 percent now, 70 percent in 2009
-- Undecided: 7 percent now, 5 percent in 2009
Expanding Salt Lake's nondiscrimination protection statewide (this question not asked on the 2009 poll):
-- Yes: 66 percent
-- No: 29 percent
-- Undecided: 9 percent