Poll: Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage Falling Across the Board

In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that made same-sex marriages legal in Utah, some key groups’ opposition to gay marriage has softened – although the groups are still opposed to the practice.

And, perhaps more important for gay rights leaders, the chance that a statewide law banning discrimination in housing and employment for gays and lesbians is gaining critical support, a new UtahPolicy poll finds.

Dan Jones & Associates conducted a similar survey on these topics last August.

And comparisons between that poll and one taken just last Wednesday and Thursday finds some interesting changes in Utahns’ opinions.

Nationally, a number of political pundits say that Republican candidates are staying away from gay rights issues, mainly because Americans’ opinions are changing – and changing quickly.

No one is suggesting that most Utahns – and certainly most Utah Republicans and members of the Mormon Church – will accept gay marriage any time soon.

Still, the politically conservatives’ and Mormons’ opposition to gay marriage – and especially a housing and employment gay anti-discrimination law – is moving, Jones finds.

Some comparative numbers:

— In August 59 percent of Utahns supported a statewide law banning discrimination of gays and lesbians in housing and employment.

(About 20 local governments have passed such a law – originally endorsed by leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)

Now that support has increased to 61 percent, Jones finds in his latest survey.

Such support could be critical to state Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George.

For the past two legislative general sessions Urquhart has run such a bill.

The 2015 Legislature is the time to pass it, Urquhart says.

“The trend toward equality based on sex gender is undeniable,” Urquhart told UtahPolicy.

“This is what people want, it is the right thing to do.”

Urquhart, an attorney, said no long can the Utah Republican Party afford to be wrong on his anti-discrimination bill.

“We can’t be wrong on this issue or we will lose an entire generation” of young people who are solidly in the anti-discrimination column.

Jones finds that among those 18-24 years old Urquhart’s bill is supported 59-28 percent. Among those 25-34 years old, it is supported by three-fourths of that population.

“My bill hurts no one. It helps a lot of individuals. It is positive for economic development.”

The first year Urquhart’s bill got out of a Senate committee, but was never debated on the floor, and died.

Last year GOP senators decided in a closed caucus not to hear any gay rights bills at all, with members saying they wanted to wait until an appeal on Utah’s same-sex marriage ban was heard by the Supreme Court.

Well, a month ago the high court refused to hear any same-sex marriage appeals this term, letting stand a number of federal appellate court decisions striking down state anti-same-sex marriage laws, Utah’s Amendment 3 being one of them.

— Jones finds that even though Utah Republican rank-and-file still oppose same-sex marriage – that opposition is falling.

In August 87 percent of Republicans opposed same-sex marriage. Now that number is 81 percent.

Only 14 percent of Republicans – who are by far Utah’s majority party – support same-sex marriage.

So don’t expect a pro-same-sex marriage law to pass any time soon in the Utah Legislature.

— Jones found an amazing shift in attitude – even when considering the poll’s margin of error – among those who say they are political independents, belonging to no party.

Back in August, Jones found that independents opposed same-sex marriage, 54-31 percent.

But in last week’s poll, independents have flipped – no doubt because of the high court’s ruling — 51 percent now support same-sex marriage, 44 percent oppose.

Democrats have always overwhelmingly supported same-sex marriage, various statewide polls over the years have shown.

— Urquhart said he’s pleased with other demographic findings in the new UtahPolicy poll.

It’s rare that GOP legislators support measures that are roundly opposed by their party’s rank-and-file.

Urquhart no long has that argument to make on his anti-discrimination bill.

Jones finds that last August, Republicans favored Urquhart’s statewide law 50-36 percent.

Now Republicans favor the bill 54-37 percent.

Statewide, active Mormons support Urquhart’s bill, 58-35 percent.

A hard-core third of Mormons and of Republicans still oppose carving out an anti-discrimination law for gays and lesbians in housing and employment – but a clear majority of both groups now support it.

For Republican House and Senate members in Salt Lake County – who tend to have more moderate constituents – the writing seems to be on the wall for Urquhart’s bill.

Finally, the bill is supported by 74 percent of political independents and 91 percent of Democrats, Jones finds.

Adds Urquhart: “No longer should we be locked in a battle with Arizona to see who is the stupidest state in the West.”

The Arizona Legislature has passed a number of controversial bills on same-sex issues in recent years.

“We in Utah should be driven by equality and a level playing field in commerce.”