WASHINGTON -- By a margin of more than two to one, a solid majority of American voters oppose repealing state laws that protect gays and lesbians from job discrimination, according to a bipartisan poll released today by the Human Rights Campaign.
The survey found 59 percent of U.S. voters oppose repealing these laws, including 35 percent who strongly oppose repealing them. Just under one in four -- 24 percent -- favor repealing such state laws.
Majority opposition to repealing state anti-discrimination laws extends to every region of the country, the survey found. More than two-thirds of Western voters (68 percent) and nearly two-thirds of voters in the Northeast (65 percent) oppose repealing such laws, including 44 percent in both of these regions who strongly oppose repeal. Even a majority of Southern voters -- 51 percent -- and North Central voters --56 percent -- oppose repealing state anti-discrimination laws.
The Human Rights Campaign draws two clear conclusions from the poll results, according to David M. Smith, HRC's senior strategist.
"The first is that last month's repeal of the statewide anti-discrimination law in Maine was a fluke caused by factors including low voter turnout, a single-issue ballot in the middle of winter and a disingenuous campaign by religious political extremists," Smith said. "The second is that a plan by the Christian Coalition to use Maine as a model to be exported to other states is bound to fail."
The pollsters -- Celinda Lake of Lake Sosin Snell Perry & Associates, a Democratic firm, and Linda DiVall of American Viewpoint, a Republican company -- predict that over time, Americans' support for non-discrimination laws is only likely to grow because younger voters are more likely to oppose repeal than older. Among registered voters under age 35, 70 percent oppose repeal, according to the survey. Among voters over 35 years old, 54 percent oppose. Younger women are most strongly opposed to repeal, with 45 percent of women under age 40 strongly opposed.
Survey results are based on a national random sample of 1,010 American adults who were interviewed from March 4-8, 1998, including a subset of 788 registered voters. The margin of error for the entire sample was +/- 3.1 percent; for registered voters, it was +/- 3.5 percent.
Ten states currently include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination laws: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin. Federal law and the civil rights laws of the remaining states do not yet protect Americans from discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The Human Rights Campaign, the largest national lesbian and gay political organization, with members throughout the country, effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support, and educates the public to ensure that lesbian and gay Americans can be open, honest, and safe at home, at work, and in the community.