D Gregory Smith

Majority of Montana Voters Favor Same-Sex Partnerships

Filed By D Gregory Smith | July 31, 2011 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: ACLU, broken closet doors, Catholic church, coming out of the closet, domestic partnership, inequity, LGBT, marriage, Montana, poll, Rural attitudes, social justice

A newly released poll shows that a majority of voters in Montana support domestic partnerships for same-sex couples. Welcome to MontanaThe poll, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for the American Civil Liberties Union, found that 53% of Montana voters favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into domestic partnerships.

"Support of same-sex domestic partnerships is growing, and now we can quantify what our day-to-day interactions with people are telling us," said ACLU of Montana LGBT Advocacy Coordinator Ninia Baehr. "It's heartening to know that people understand that every loving and committed couple who pays taxes in our state deserves fairness."

The change in attitude mirrors an increase in the number of same-sex couples in Montana reporting their households to the U.S. Census Bureau. Recently released numbers show 2,295 same-sex households in the 2010 Census - a 54 percent jump since 2000.

Details of the poll are after the break.

Key Highlights of 2011 Polling

  • Most Montanans favor domestic partnership: By a 13 point margin, voters in Montana favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into domestic partnerships - 53% favor, 40% oppose. There is more intensity among those who favor; 35% strongly favor, while 29% strongly oppose.
  • More than half of Catholics (55%) favor domestic partnerships, including 36% who strongly favor allowing domestic partnerships. This measure also wins the support of nearly half (47%) of seniors, a majority of older women (54%), and blue collar women (52%).
  • Support for domestic partnerships seems to be increasing. A 2008 survey conducted by Lake Research Partners asked voters a four-part question asking them to choose between traditional marriage, marriage with another name, civil unions, and no legal recognition. The survey found that 33% of Montanans thought that gay and lesbian couples should have the same right to marry as straight couples, or should have the same right to marry but it should not be called marriage.
  • Voters recognize discrimination against gays and lesbians. A 47% plurality believe gay people in Montana face a lot of discrimination; only 38% think that gays and lesbians in the state do not face much discrimination.

People understand that the lack of legal recognition of same-sex relationships leaves couples extremely vulnerable. In Montana examples of unfairness toward same-sex couples include a woman who was denied bereavement leave when her partner's father died, and another woman who lost her home because she was ineligible for worker's compensation death benefits when her partner was killed in an accident.

"Same-sex couples have told us time and again that they are meeting more and more people who sympathize with their plight," said Baehr. "This polling reinforces the growing support those couples have been experiencing."

While it's not exactly marriage, I'll take it. For now.

This shows that the evolution of the Montana voter's attitude is trending in favor of eventual, full equality - and this change in attitude has a cause. This is happening because more of us are coming out. We're visible as co-workers, neighbors, children, siblings and friends. We are not a threat, we're just people.

I'm particularly impressed with the Catholics - and not surprised, really. This is about social justice for Catholics - not particularly about morality. Even though the hierarchy is deeply out of touch on this issue, this is a reminder that the sense of the people in the pews are what's leading the church here. My mother would have agreed; I know the rest of my Catholic family does.

In the eyes of Montanans, "teh gayz" are slowly changing from scary bogeymen into recognizable human beings. This is not only good news for Montana, this is good news for America.

Never underestimate the power unleashed by broken closet doors.

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Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | July 31, 2011 6:51 PM

"While it's not exactly marriage, I'll take it. For now."

Prepare to duck, Greg. A lot of folks in our community think that even where the political climate wouldn't be ripe for full marriage equality for another 50 years, but that civil unions, etc., might come in maybe five or ten, would say "no way".

"While it's not exactly marriage, I'll take it. For now."

Greg, if I am reading Don correctly, I would agree. Don't settle for crumbs from the table when you can have the whole cake. I think the lgbt community in New Jersey accepted civil unions and now are having to fight the battle all over again in an effort to get full marriage equality.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | August 1, 2011 7:56 AM

Don't misunderstand my observation as being in full agreement with those who refuse to accept any "crumbs". Philosophically a practical political reality, no. For example, New Jersey simply is not Indiana, and likely won't be anytime soon. Absent an overriding U.S. Supreme Court decision, successful same sex-marriage legislation (or a state court decision) is far away. Civil unions or maybe somewhat less....less so. It's easy to sit in a state like New Jersey or in New England and say "Don't settle for crumbs from the table when you can have the whole cake". In most of "red flyover country", they impound the crumbs and even trying to grease the cakepan is a felony.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | August 1, 2011 7:57 AM

Correction in the above.....should have read "Philosophically YES"

I know many may not agree, but I'm simply delighted at the evolution that's happening....