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Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Same-sex marriage survey results raise questions

Published: Monday, Aug. 25 2014 9:40 a.m. MDT

In this April 11, 2014, file photo, Ali Bell, of Bountiful, holds her sign with other supporters of Utah's same-sex marriage ban who gathered at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City, to stand up for "traditional marriage" a day after a federal appeals court heard arguments about the constitutionality of the law.

Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

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A new Zions Bank/UtahPolicy.com poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates showed that 61 percent of Utah likely voters oppose same-sex marriage with 29 percent supporting. At the same time, some 58 percent believe the U.S. Supreme Court will strike down Utah's gay/lesbian marriage prohibition.

Further, nearly 60 percent support anti-discrimination laws to protect people with same-sex attraction. These results raise a lot of questions.

Are Utahns conflicted on the issue of same-sex marriage?

Pignanelli: “Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are dead.” — Aldous Huxley

This poll reflects the typical Utahn — expressive of his/her heritage and culture, sympathetic and practical. The survey results make sense applied against the turbulent dynamics of the marriage issue. Utah is a center of moral conservatism — explaining the majority opposition. (The next logical sequence of this commentary is a reference to the American expressions of poll respondents reading political tea leaves, coffee grounds and wine sediments. For obvious reasons, I will choose a safer, but less flavorful, alternative.) Pragmatic Utahns “read the writing on the wall” regarding the Supreme Court on the issue. Fundamentally fair-minded and reasonable, Utahns accept domestic partnerships for same-sex couples.

The poll also underscores the mistakes made by opponents to same-sex marriage. If religious leaders (including the LDS Church) — using their compassionate and inclusive themes — controlled the national strategy and messaging, the national trends on the issue would be different. Instead, callous right-wing extremists dominated the airwaves with their hateful bile. (Taking shots at Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter is a moral imperative for me.) Americans do not experience a radical “gay agenda” when interacting with family members and friends of a different sexual orientation. The harsh rhetoric backfired.

Webb: Most Utahns are unlikely to support same-sex marriage until the question of its impact on family life and the raising of children is fully understood. Nothing is more important to faithful members of the LDS Church, both practically and doctrinally, both now and through the eternities, than the marriage relationship and the family unit.

After centuries of traditional marriage, the same-sex marriage revolution, including the dramatic change in attitudes and avalanche of court decisions, has occurred so rapidly that the real impact on families is unknown, although both sides hold very strong opinions.

Still, Utahns are practical enough to understand that we’ve reached a tipping point and the same-sex marriage tide is not likely to be turned back. Even a U.S. Supreme Court decision leaving the regulation of marriage to the states won’t reverse the overall direction.

Another interesting statistic from the research indicates 81 percent of active voters over age 65 oppose same-sex marriage, but the level of opposition drops with age. Some 50 percent of Utah active voters 18-24 favor same-sex marriage, while 41 percent oppose. In the near future, will a majority of Utahns accept same-sex marriage?

Pignanelli: Every hour, scores of older opponents to same-sex marriage pass to the after life and are replaced with babies who will grow into supporters. This demographic dynamic is unalterable. As a longtime public speaker, I state with experience that defending traditional marriage with younger audiences increases in difficulty every year. Millennials do not care about 5,000 years of human traditions. They easily declare their gay and lesbian friends are not causing the destruction of heterosexual marriages and the American family. Younger citizens embrace marital rights for same-sex couples.

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