Lyceum Poll is fourth survey in 2 years to show majority supports same-sex marriage or civil unions

John Wright  |  Online Editor

Dennis Coleman
Dennis Coleman

For the fourth time in two years, a statewide poll has shown that a majority of Texans support marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples.

In the 2010 Texas Lyceum Poll, released Tuesday, Oct. 5, 28 percent of respondents said they support same-sex marriage, 24 percent said they support civil unions, and 40 percent said they oppose any legal status, with the remaining 8 percent undecided. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 3.75 percent.

Dennis Coleman, executive director of Equality Texas, said the poll results should prove helpful heading into the 2011 legislative session.

“It’s very significant,” Coleman said. “For any legislator who might be a little leery about moving forward, hopefully this gives them some sense of confidence.

“It definitely strengthens the conversation for us to have that,” Coleman said of the poll results. “This definitely gives us some ammunition of where Texans are right now, and where they’re moving.”

In February, a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll showed that 63 percent supported same-sex marriage or civil unions.

In 2009, UT/Texas Tribune and Texas Lyceum polls showed that 61 percent and 57 percent of Texans supported marriage or civil unions.

“The fact that you’re getting the same results across different methodologies and different polling formats, suggests that the result is what it is,” said pollster Daron Shaw, a political science professor at UT.

In 2005, Texas voters approved a ballot measure prohibiting both same-sex marriage and “any legal status identical or similar to marriage,” by a margin of 3-1.

However, fewer than 20 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the off-year election. And LGBT advocates have long said they believe some voters didn’t realize the amendment would ban not only same-sex marriage but also civil unions.

Coleman acknowledged that in order to legislatively establish civil unions in Texas, the state must first undo the amendment, which would require a two-thirds majority of lawmakers and another ballot measure.

“In the meantime, there are some ways you can recognize relationships through hospital visitation rights, through recognition of family relationships to children,” Coleman said, adding that Equality Texas wants to conduct its own, more specific polling on LGBT issues.

“For certain communities, marriage is not No. 1; protecting their jobs is No. 1,” Coleman said. “For some protecting their families, having both parents names on a birth certificate, is No. 1. We’re not just all about marriage.”

Shaw said the Texas Tribune may also conduct polling on other LGBT issues during the session that begins in January.

Debate over same-sex marriage has been “polarized by elites” and is a “difficult sell” in Texas due to people’s religious beliefs, Shaw said.

But if you offer them options like civil unions, many will take the middle ground.

“It’s not clear to me that statewide there’s a huge market for real hardcore socially conservative positions.” Shaw said. “When it comes to questions of personal liberty or personal freedom, there’s a strong Libertarian strain in Texas. I think that’s kind of what you see when you look at the gay marriage question.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 08, 2010.