Alex Blaze

Politicians fall further behind the public on LGB legislation

Filed By Alex Blaze | October 28, 2009 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: bisexual, domestic partnership, health care benefits, health care reform, jobs, lesbian, LGBT, marriage, Mormon, New Jersey, polling, state's rights, survey, transgender, utah

Via the New York Times, here's an interesting chart comparing public opinion on various LGB rights issues (since it says NY has job protections I'm assuming it excludes transgender people). The different colors refer to different issues, the different lines to different states, and filled-in circles means that a law providing that right or protection has been passed. You'll have to click to enlarge to see what's going on.


It makes a point I've been making at the national level for a while now: most of these protections are overwhelmingly popular with the public in general, so why are politicians so afraid to vote for them?

First, a disclaimer. The popularity of each item is based on calculations from larger, national surveys and aren't all from the exact same time. Also, their is dispute as to why some states were listed as having a certain right and other ones weren't. For example, Hawaii has civil unions on this chart and Colorado doesn't, even though they provide almost the same protections. Some of the second-parent adoption bubbles are based on court decisions that are far from conclusive or sweeping.

Still, it's the best representation of these data that I've come across.

A few observations:

  • Same-sex marriage is consistently the least popular measure at the state level.
  • Housing protections are consistently the most popular, although they don't get that much attention compared to the hotter LGB issues like marriage and hate crimes legislation, or even employment protections. Is it because housing discrimination, unrelated to probate or family law, just isn't that big of a problem for LGB people?
  • True to American form, gay adoption isn't as hated as gay marriage. One thing I've noticed here in Europe is that gay and lesbian activists are more focused on adoption than on marriage, and the fundies (in France particularly) follow suit. French rightwingers have been proposing a constitutional amendment guaranteeing each child the right to a mother and a father for years, while American rightwingers want the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.
  • The two states that defy that trend are Utah and Idaho. They are the two most Mormon states, with 58% and 23% of their populations self-identifying as Mormon. Arizona has the two issues at the same popularity (and 4% of that state is Mormon), with Wyoming (11%), Alaska (4%), and Montana (5%). Are Mormons more concerned about family and child-rearing issues than the abstraction of marriage, or is the trend more related to the Mountain West?
  • Health care benefits for the partners of state employees and employment non-discrimination closely track one another.
  • Four of the rights represented - housing protections, employment protections, hate crimes legislation, and health care benefits - are popular in the overwhelming majority of states. One has been enacted, two are being discussed, but I can't remember the last time someone at the federal level discussed LGBT housing protections.
  • Hate crimes legislation has been passed in quite a few states that haven't passed anything else, going deeper into the homophobic states than any other right represented on the chart. Maybe hate crimes legislation really isn't an indicator of how much people in an area want to protect people from hate crimes and has more to with outside factors.
  • For all their talk of "radical homosexual activists" "imposing their will" on the "silent majority," the rightgets their way when its unpopular a whole lot more. Only 2 states below the 50% mark recognize same-sex marriage, while 30 states above the 50% mark on housing protections don't grant them, 27 states above the 50% mark on job protections have them, and 34 states above the 50% mark for health care benefits have them.

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It is too bad that this chart excludes reporting on the state of these issues in the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) . In addition to its 600,000 residents, there are a couple hundred thousand additional workers here who live in the suburban Maryland and Virginia areas, and all the visitors who would also be covered under hate crimes protections.
It is too bad that writers of these articles and studies so often exclude the entire population of the capital of this country. This reminds me of when I was a college student in Massachusetts, my passport application there was originally rejected because my birth certificate said place of birth: "District of Columbia", and I was informed that you had to be born in the USA to qualify for a passport !!!

This is an interesting bundle of info. It merely reinforces the fact that our "leaders" rarely lead on anything- instead they are dragged forward only after overwhelming pressure and public outcry.

We just need to keep pushing harder on our elected leaders. We need to make sure we are in their faces every day, all day, telling our stories over and over until they finally realize that they have the power to do some real good for an entire category of Americans that are not being treated as Americans.