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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 4, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 44
State's voters support marriage equality, new poll says
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State's voters support marriage equality, new poll says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A Washington poll released on October 31 shows that voters could approve a law giving equal marriage rights to same-sex couples if the legislature passes it in 2012.

The University of Washington Center for Survey Research sampled 938 registered voters by phone between October 10 and October 30.

Among other questions, they were asked:

'Next year the legislature could pass a law allowing Gay and Lesbian couples to get married. If that happens, there could be a referendum in which voters would be asked to approve or reject the law. If such a referendum were held today & would you vote YES - that is, to keep the law in place allowing Gay and Lesbian couples to marry OR would you vote NO, against the law - to make it so that Gay and Lesbian couples could not marry?'

According to the poll, 55% of voters would support a marriage equality law. Only 38% would vote against it.

Of those who said they would vote for marriage equality, 47% said they supported the proposed law 'strongly,' with only 8% saying their support was 'not strong.'

Thirty-one percent said they opposed marriage equality 'strongly.'

The poll's margin of error is 3.2%.

Equal Rights Washington Marriage Equality Director Josh Friedes said he was 'delighted' by the new poll.

'This confirms ERW's internal polling that 55% of the electorate would vote to confirm the [marriage equality] law,' Friedes told SGN.

In other questions about marriage, 43% of the respondents said that 'Gay and Lesbian couples should have the same right to marry as straight couples.'

An additional 22% said that 'Gay and Lesbian couples should be able to have the same rights as straight couples but it should not be called marriage.'

Comparing this finding to the results of the question about a possible referendum on marriage, it is evident that the 22% who favor relationship recognition if it is not called marriage split about evenly on whether they would vote to keep same-sex marriage or reject it.

This is important information for LGBT rights activists who have to plan for a possible referendum if the state legislature does pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage.

'What the poll says is that it's possible to win,' Friedes told SGN. 'A clear plurality of voters prefer [marriage equality].

'That changes the dynamic in the room. It means that now, when people have conversations about marriage, they will most often be interacting with marriage-equality supporters rather than domestic-partnership or civil-union supporters.'

The fact that only 43% of the respondents explicitly favored 'the same right to marry as straight couples' is a reason for caution, however.

'The take-away from the poll is that this is winnable, but only if we accelerate our work and strengthen our marriage equality majority,' Friedes warned.

'The votes we need to win are not in Seattle,' Friedes continued. 'They're outside of Seattle. That's why we're organizing a series of meetings - some of them in Seattle but most of them in other areas - to begin organizing around the state.

'Our internal polling shows that many of our straight allies don't know that marriage equality is important to us because we haven't raised that issue with them yet.'

It is also interesting to compare the 65% who now favor legal recognition of same-sex relationships - whether it is called 'marriage' or not - to the results of Referendum 71 in 2009.

Referendum 71 passed with a 53% Yes vote, indicating that public support for same-sex relationships has increased in the intervening two years.

This is also important information for LGBT activists.

'The radical right overplayed its hand,' Friedes observed. 'They promised a parade of horribles if Referendum 71 passed. But it didn't happen. The sky didn't fall. People became increasingly comfortable with domestic partnership laws. Also people have become more familiar with the problems Gay and Lesbian families face.

'New York made a big difference,' he added. 'So too did President Obama's position that DOMA is unconstitutional. That was very powerful, but it highlights the fact that Gay and Lesbian families remain very vulnerable.'

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