Monday, February 01, 2010

'Dramatic jump' with Utahns for gay rights

Excerpts of 'Dramatic jump' with Utahns for gay rights, by, Salt Lake Tribune
See here for additional background.
Opposition dropped, overall, from 40 percent to 23 percent. Among LDS respondents, it plummeted from 48 percent to 28 percent.

When Salt Lake City embraced anti-discrimination ordinances for gay and transgender residents last fall -- snagging a landmark endorsement by the LDS Church and widespread support from city officials -- more shifted than public policy.

Public opinion -- throughout Utah -- jumped, too.

Support for some gay rights, short of marriage, climbed 11 percentage points across the state from a year ago, according to a new Salt Lake Tribune poll, and shot up by 10 percent among Mormons.

Two-thirds of Utahns (67 percent) favor employment protections and safeguards for same-sex couples such as hospital visitation and inheritance rights, up from 56 percent in January 2009, when pollsters asked the same question.

"This isn't a gradual change of attitudes. This is a fairly dramatic jump," says Matthew Burbank, chairman of the University of Utah's political science department. "Clearly, the fact that the LDS Church was officially endorsing this position had an impact on people."

A similar number of respondents, 66 percent, also say they support expanding Salt Lake City's anti-discrimination policy -- the first of its kind in Utah and already mimicked in Salt Lake

Former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., a popular Republican who declared his support for civil unions in February 2009, appears not to have budged opinion on the issue. This year, 28 percent of Utahns polled say they support amending the Utah Constitution to permit civil unions for same-sex couples. (In 2009, 25 percent backed such a move, but the change falls within the poll's error margin.)

"Once you know someone who is gay or transgender, you're much less likely to have a negative opinion of them," she says. "People have started to recognize that this really is a basic issue of fairness."

"They have as much love and affection for their soul mates as heterosexuals who are married," Evans says. "I see no reason why they should be denied [basic rights]."

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