A majority of Utahns say they'll vote for a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage that will be on the ballot this November, according to a Deseret Morning News/KSL-TV poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates.
Yet those who are organizing campaigns on both sides of the issue are optimistic that the results will favor their side.
The statewide poll of 909 registered voters showed 62 percent of those surveyed would vote for the amendment. Only 6 percent were undecided in a poll with a margin of error of 3.2 percent.
In the poll, conducted June 14-17, a follow-up question was posed to the 568 respondents who said they were definitely or probably for the amendment. When asked about the amendment's second part, which would also ban domestic unions similar to marriage, such as civil unions, Jones found that 5 percent of those who said they'd support an amendment to ban gay marriages changed their vote to vote against the amendment; 4 percent changed their votes to "undecided." That question's margin of error was 4 percent.
The survey shows slightly lower support for such an amendment than a poll conducted earlier this year, in which 65 percent said they'd vote for such legislation. However, when the error margin is taken into account, voters' opinions remain basically unchanged.
Same-sex marriage and constitutional interpretations have become twin hot-button issues the past few years, notably in California, Vermont, New York and, most recently, Massachusetts. President Bush has endorsed a proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriages.
Scott McCoy, chairman of the recently formed Don't Amend Alliance, which is against Utah's proposed ban, said the new poll results are encouraging.
"The movement is in our direction," he said. "I am confident there is a center out there in the Utah electorate . . . who don't believe that we need to deny basic rights to gay and lesbian families in order to protect the notion of traditional marriages."
Gayle Ruzicka, president of Utah Eagle Forum, which has plans to mount a campaign supporting the amendment, also viewed the poll as a positive sign that Utah voters are largely unswayed by Don't Amend's efforts so far.
"Those supporting the amendment haven't done anything yet," she said. "Those against it have held rallies and collected $300,000."
The amendment's support was strongest among those who identified their political ideology as very conservative. But fewer than half of moderates and liberals supported the amendment.
The level of support widely varied from region to region, with half or fewer of voters in Salt Lake and Weber counties supporting both parts; support was strongest in Utah and Davis counties and the rest of the state.
Janice Houston, director of research at Utah Foundation, said the state's predominant LDS faith will likely play a factor in November. While the church has not spoken publicly on this legislation, "the message has been made abundantly clear" that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opposes gay marriage on moral and religious grounds.
Of those who identified themselves as LDS, 68 percent said they'd support both parts of the amendment. Fewer than half of those from every other religious group identified in the poll Catholic, Protestant, other, or none supported the amendment.
Houston said relationships such as civil unions are "a kind of compromise that is very popular in more moderate states than Utah. . . . In Utah this goes beyond gay marriage and looks at other types of marriage such as polygamy."
McCoy's campaign is focused on informing voters that the second part of the amendment is worded broadly enough to deny even basic rights to same-sex couples. "That's where people become concerned," he said.
He noted that his campaign and other groups registered about 200 new voters "who were motivated because of this amendment" at the recent Utah Pride festival. He said about 5,000 people signed a petition to vote against the amendment. A door-to-door voter education campaign is under way, and Don't Amend will be at various festivals throughout the summer, McCoy said.
Ruzicka said her campaign will seek to educate voters that the amendment is necessary to safeguard the state's marriage laws. She said several people have already offered to help when the pro-amendment campaign kicks off, and she hopes the amendment will gain bipartisan support."Some things even go too far for even the most liberal-thinking person," she said. "I think it's going to become more of an issue of people representing the homosexual lifestyle. As they begin to understand the impact on families and children, responsible people are going to be opposed to the recognition of homosexual marriage."