Poll Shows Wisconsin Warming To Gay Civil Unions

Sat. September 20, 2003 12:00 AM by 365gay.com

Madison, Wisconsin - A statewide poll shows that resistance to same-ex domestic partnerships is waning in Wisconsin but the state remains overwhelmingly opposed to gay marriage.

The Badger Poll, taken for the The Capital Times and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, shows that for the first time the state is evenly divided on giving most of the rights that married couples enjoy to gay and lesbian partners. But, by a nearly 2-1 margin residents said they would reject the idea of same-sex marriage.

The poll was taken after this summer's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned the Texas sodomy laws and amid growing lobbying efforts by LGBT groups to win acceptance of gay families.

Badger Poll director G. Donald Ferree said the difference in responses to the two questions reflects a dichotomy in Wisconsin residents' attitudes between private conduct and public sanction.

"On the one side, there's the question of official societal approval, and people are willing to say, 'I don't care what you do, but don't force me to approve of it,' " Ferree said.

The poll found that 60 percent of Wisconsin residents support extending equal legal protections to gays and lesbians.

60 percent said that homosexual sex between consenting adults should be legal. 87 percent said that gays should be allowed to serve in the military. 83 percent support laws banning discrimination in housing and employment, and 73 percent said they saw no reason to prevent gays from teaching in elementary schools.

72 percent of those surveyed said they knew someone who was gay or lesbian, and 84 percent said knowing that would not make a difference in their friendship.

But when asked if they personally approve of homosexuality, there was less tolerance. Fifty-eight percent said sexual relations between members of the same sex were "basically wrong."

Gay activists said they were encouraged by the results. But, state Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, the sponsor of a bill to define marriage as only between a man and a woman, downplayed the findings.

"Civil unions are a whole different deal" than marriage, he said.

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This article originally appeared on 365gay.com. Republished with permission.