Utahns at their core are non-discriminatory people," said Brandie Balken, executive director of Equality Utah. "We don't believe that discrimination is OK regardless of the reason that it's being practiced.
SALT LAKE CITY — A majority of Utahns favor legal protection statewide for gay and transgender individuals when it comes to employment and housing.
However, results from a recently released poll also showed that most Utahns do not support marriage or adoption rights for gay or transgender couples.
The poll, commissioned by Equality Utah — a Salt Lake-based civil rights organization focusing on equal rights and protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Utahns and their families — was conducted by research firm Dan Jones and Associates. The survey polled 801 households across the state and contained a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.
Among the findings was that 73 percent of respondents somewhat or strongly favor a statewide nondiscrimination law that would make it illegal for someone to be fired from a job solely because they are gay or transgender. The same 73 percent also somewhat or strongly favor a statewide nondiscrimination law that would make it illegal for someone to be evicted from housing solely because they are gay or transgender.
More than 80 percent of respondents believed such laws already existed in Utah.
Meanwhile, the poll showed that most respondents oppose adoption and marriage for gay and transgender couples.
According to survey data, 55 percent of respondents somewhat or strongly oppose gay or transgender couples becoming foster parents and 52 percent oppose gay or transgender couples being allowed to adopt children whom they have no biological ties to — in other words, traditional adoption.
While 64 percent of those polled somewhat or strongly favor allowing legally recognized forms of partnerships — short of marriage — for gay and transgender couples, such as domestic partnerships or civil unions, 57 percent somewhat or strongly oppose Utah recognizing marriages of gay and transgender couples who move here from other states.
Additionally, 65 percent of respondents somewhat or strongly oppose allowing gay and transgender couples to marry in Utah.
"Utahns showed some interest in antidiscrimination laws in some areas and not in other areas," said Trent Kaufman, researcher and executive vice president of the Cicero Group, parent company of Dan Jones and Associates.
"The data suggests the marriage or adoption issues relate to the family, while the other (data) aren't as related to family," Kaufman said. "These findings held true all across the state with respondents representing every county."
The survey also showed that 54 percent of respondents believe that being gay is probably or definitely a choice.
For the organization that commissioned the poll, the findings indicate that Utahns seem to take a "common sense" approach to issues of fairness for its residents.
"Utahns at their core are non-discriminatory people," said Brandie Balken, executive director of Equality Utah. "We don't believe that discrimination is OK regardless of the reason that it's being practiced."
She believes the support for equality shown by Utahns is encouraging and will eventually result in an increased dialogue at the legislative level and one day laws that protect the rights of everyone, including those in the LGBT community.
"As understanding about the broad support of these protections and also understanding about the implications of discrimination on our communities continues to grow, it enhances our opportunity to achieve statewide passage for these important protections," Balken said.
Making inroads toward equality will require more time and continued education, she said, so that "people are able to see people who are gay or transgendered at their full human selves, not as a category or preference."
Speaking about how people of all stripes would like to be treated, Balken said every human being wants to be seen by their community and by their state as a valid, contributing member.
"When we can speak about the values that we share, and what we see as a state as fair-minded, common sense protections based on our shared values, then we have the opportunity to make really good policy," she said.
"Today in the state of Utah, I can say to you, 'I'm firing you because you're straight. I don't think you represent my company well,' or 'I'm evicting you because you're not transgender.' That's not a value set that Utahns hold," Balken said.
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