Saturday, June 25, 2005

Poll Finds Illinois Voters Overwhelmingly Oppose Constitutional Ban on Gay Marriages

A poll recently commissioned by Equality Illinois to benchmark voter attitudes towards gay and lesbian citizens in Illinois found that on 9 out of 10 issues surveyed, Illinoisans supported granting equal rights to gays and lesbians. The survey found that while the Land of Lincoln was not ready to support gay marriages, an overwhelming majority of its citizens were opposed to amending either the U.S. or Illinois constitutions to ban gay marriages. The poll, which was commissioned by the Glengariff Group of Chicago, was conducted between June 6 and June 8, 2005 and surveyed the views of 600 random, digital dial callers with a plus or minus margin of error of 4%.

The survey found that 38% support gay marriage while 49% oppose gay marriage. This split on gay marriage the poll found was the only issue on which Illinois voters do not support equal rights for gays and lesbians according to the poll. By a margin of 53% to 36%, Illinois voters favored allowing civil unions between gays and lesbians. The poll also found public support on a variety of issues, including hospital visitation rights, inheritance rights, health benefits for government employees gay partners, filing joint tax returns, social security/pension rights and adoption rights. More importantly, the poll found that Illinois voters by a margin of 70% to 23% opposed amending the U.S. constitution, and by a margin of 67% to 27% opposed amending the state constitution, to ban gay marriages. Among those surveyed the poll found that 56% of Illinois voters say they know a friend or family member who is gay or lesbian. Those persons knowing a gay or lesbian friend or family member supported gay and lesbian rights by a margin of 24% over those who did not know a friend or family member who was gay or lesbian.

If you remove Chicago from Illinois, you have a state that is very similar demographically and culturally to the State of Indiana. While the poll found the strongest support for gay rights in the City of Chicago, the central and southern parts of the state were nearly as equally opposed to amending the U.S. or Illinois constitutions to ban gay marriages. For example, there was opposition to an amendment to the U.S. constitution among central Illinois voters by a margin of 70% to 24%, and among southern Illinois voters by a margin of 58% to 35%. That compares to a margin of 74% to 19% of Chicago voters who oppose a U.S. constitutional amendment. Very similar results were found for the strong opposition to a state constitutional amendment. While Democrats were more likely to oppose a constitutional amendment than Republicans, the poll found that a clear majority of Republicans also opposed a constitutional amendment.

Among other issues, the poll found the greatest public support for hospital visitation rights and the least public support for adoption results. The poll did not include the issue of discrimination in employment and housing. The Illinois General Assembly approved and Illinois Governor Rod Blagoyevich signed a new law in January which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The survey results showed support on the following issues as follows:

Hospital visitation rights (77%-17%)
Inheritance rights (61%-30%)
Health benefits for partners of government employees (56%-35%)
Filing of joint tax returns (55%-38%)
Inheritance benefits for social security and pensions (54%-39%)
Adoption rights (48%-44%)

Advance Indiana does not believe such a comprehensive poll on gay and lesbian civil rights has been taken in the State of Indiana. However, Advance Indiana would not be surprised to see similar numbers in a poll taken here. Most importantly, it shows very strong public support for providing equal rights to gays and lesbians on a whole host of issues, laying aside the issue of gay marriage. It should be noted that the pollster conducting the Illinois poll, Glengariff Group, is headed by a Republican. Richard Czuba, the president of Glengariff Group, formerly worked for the Michigan Republican Party and former Governor John Engler. He has conducted political polls for candidates running for president, Congress, statewide and state legislative races.

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