Via the New York Times, here's an interesting chart comparing public opinion on various LGB rights issues (since it says NY has job protections I'm assuming it excludes transgender people). The different colors refer to different issues, the different lines to different states, and filled-in circles means that a law providing that right or protection has been passed. You'll have to click to enlarge to see what's going on.
It makes a point I've been making at the national level for a while now: most of these protections are overwhelmingly popular with the public in general, so why are politicians so afraid to vote for them?
First, a disclaimer. The popularity of each item is based on calculations from larger, national surveys and aren't all from the exact same time. Also, their is dispute as to why some states were listed as having a certain right and other ones weren't. For example, Hawaii has civil unions on this chart and Colorado doesn't, even though they provide almost the same protections. Some of the second-parent adoption bubbles are based on court decisions that are far from conclusive or sweeping.
Still, it's the best representation of these data that I've come across.
A few observations:
- Same-sex marriage is consistently the least popular measure at the state level.
- Housing protections are consistently the most popular, although they don't get that much attention compared to the hotter LGB issues like marriage and hate crimes legislation, or even employment protections. Is it because housing discrimination, unrelated to probate or family law, just isn't that big of a problem for LGB people?
- True to American form, gay adoption isn't as hated as gay marriage. One thing I've noticed here in Europe is that gay and lesbian activists are more focused on adoption than on marriage, and the fundies (in France particularly) follow suit. French rightwingers have been proposing a constitutional amendment guaranteeing each child the right to a mother and a father for years, while American rightwingers want the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.
- The two states that defy that trend are Utah and Idaho. They are the two most Mormon states, with 58% and 23% of their populations self-identifying as Mormon. Arizona has the two issues at the same popularity (and 4% of that state is Mormon), with Wyoming (11%), Alaska (4%), and Montana (5%). Are Mormons more concerned about family and child-rearing issues than the abstraction of marriage, or is the trend more related to the Mountain West?
- Health care benefits for the partners of state employees and employment non-discrimination closely track one another.
- Four of the rights represented - housing protections, employment protections, hate crimes legislation, and health care benefits - are popular in the overwhelming majority of states. One has been enacted, two are being discussed, but I can't remember the last time someone at the federal level discussed LGBT housing protections.
- Hate crimes legislation has been passed in quite a few states that haven't passed anything else, going deeper into the homophobic states than any other right represented on the chart. Maybe hate crimes legislation really isn't an indicator of how much people in an area want to protect people from hate crimes and has more to with outside factors.
- For all their talk of "radical homosexual activists" "imposing their will" on the "silent majority," the rightgets their way when its unpopular a whole lot more. Only 2 states below the 50% mark recognize same-sex marriage, while 30 states above the 50% mark on housing protections don't grant them, 27 states above the 50% mark on job protections have them, and 34 states above the 50% mark for health care benefits have them.