Survey shows support growing in EBR for same-sex marriage

Respondents also back consolidation of law enforcement entities

A new survey suggests support for same-sex marriage is growing in East Baton Rouge Parish, results some find surprising for a politically conservative state.

The survey shows that, for the first time in the three years the question has been asked, more people in East Baton Rouge Parish favor legalizing same-sex marriage than oppose it.

According to the survey, 47 percent of the respondents were for legalizing same-sex marriage while 45 percent were opposed. Six percent said they didn’t know. In last year’s survey, 44 percent of respondents were in favor while 49 percent were against same-sex marriage.

The same-sex marriage question was among the highlights of the annual CityStats report, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation’s quality of life survey, which was released Monday.

In other highlights, 60 percent of the survey respondents said they support consolidating the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office and Baton Rouge Police Department.

Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed said they would pay a toll to use a road if it allowed them to avoid heavy traffic congestion, while opinions were sharply divided on gun control measures and allowing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use.

Same-sex marriage is not legal in Louisiana, although it is legal in nine states — Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington.

The number will grow to 12 states by Aug. 1 after same-sex marriage laws take effect in Delaware, Minnesota and Rhode Island. Same-sex marriage was enacted by popular vote in four of those 12 states — Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington.

According to the survey, a recent CBS poll in March put national support for same-sex marriage at 53 percent.

District 12 Metro Councilman John Delgado said he was “very encouraged” by the response to the same-sex marriage question.

“It’s something that we’ve gotten that progressive,” Delgado said.

Matt Patterson, education and advocacy committee chairman of the Baton Rouge lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group Capital City Alliance, called the survey results heartening.

“It’s not an overwhelming surprise when you look at what’s going on around the nation and the world,” Patterson said. “More and more people these days know somebody who is gay and they want to see them treated fairly.”

Gene Mills, director of the Louisiana Family Forum, a conservative group that opposes gay marriage, said the survey results showed a “significant shift with significant implications.”

However, Mills said, Louisiana voters already addressed the gay marriage issue through a 2004 constitutional amendment defining marriage in Louisiana as between a man and a woman.

In other highlights from the report, the survey shows that most East Baton Rouge Parish residents support consolidating the Police Department and Sheriff’s Office.

Sixty percent of survey respondents said they support consolidating the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Baton Rouge Police Department while 27 percent of the respondents were opposed and 13 percent were undecided.

Mayor-President Kip Holden was in Taiwan on Monday and couldn’t be reached for comment.

East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux did not respond to a request for comment on the survey, and Lt. Don Kelly, of the Baton Rouge Police Department, said his agency had no official reaction.

Delgado said he was not surprised that a majority of respondents favor consolidating the two law enforcement agencies.

“It’s all about how the question was asked. If they just asked, ‘Are you for consolidation?’ everybody will want that. But it’s the devil in the details. How are you going to consolidate?” Delgado said.

Delgado said if they asked residents of Baton Rouge if they wanted to lose their police department, most city residents would say they are not in favor of that.

The BRAF survey also shows frustration with Baton Rouge traffic.

According to the survey, 57 percent of respondents said they would pay a toll to use a road if it allowed them to avoid traffic on Essen Lane and College Drive.

The question related to a proposal for a road that would run along the edge of Burden Plantation to connect Kenilworth Parkway with Corporate Boulevard.

In another finding in the survey, 39 percent of survey respondents said they do not feel safe walking alone at night in their neighborhoods while 58 percent said they do.

The number in the most recent survey who say they don’t feel safe is down from last year’s survey, when 43 percent of survey respondents said they didn’t feel safe walking alone in their neighborhoods at night and 55 percent of the respondents said they did.

Other highlights from the survey include:

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation uses CityStats data to guide its civic leadership projects and to assist fund donors in making grants.

Respondents to the poll are representative of the parish. The sample was 360 land line calls and 153 cellphone calls for a total of 513 responses. The poll was conducted in February and March. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.3 percent.

Research for the project was conducted under contract with the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and the LSU Public Policy Research Lab, which runs the survey.

The full report is available at http://www.BRAF.org.