LSU poll finds support in Louisiana for gay rights

About nine of every 10 Louisiana residents support some sort of workplace protection for lesbians and homosexuals, according to an LSU poll of 1,280 state residents that was released Wednesday.

About the same percentage, 93.7 percent of adults, say gay and transgender people should not be evicted or denied housing because of their sexual orientation, and 89 percent say schools should protest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, called LGBT, from being bullied, according to the poll.

“I was blown away by the results that we got,” said Matthew Patterson, legislative and policy coordinator for Equality Louisiana, a Baton Rouge group that advocates for LGBT rights statewide, and one of three sponsors of the LSU poll.

“The story that we often hear from legislators is that Louisiana is a very conservative state and even if they personally believed in fairness and equality, their constituents would never support them taking a position in favor of protections for LGBT people in any realm of life,” Patterson said.

In 2004, for instance, the state overwhelming approved a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. But nine years have passed and attitudes have changed, he said. While the issue of same-sex marriage is complicated by religion and intense personal feelings, whether an individual is discriminated against on the job or at school is a fairly clear-cut question, Patterson said.

“I can’t think of anything more mainstream than 90 percent of your constituents saying they want fair housing; they want protection in the workplace; and they want children to be protected in the schools,” he said.

The group is preparing bills for the legislative session that begins March 10, Patterson said. Members hope to use the poll to rally support for bills that are being drafted that would provide employment protection in both the private and public sector, Patterson said. They also are working on fair housing and anti-bullying legislation along with an effort to modernize the state’s “crimes against nature” statutes. Though found unconstitutional in 2003, the laws commonly used to arrest gay people are still on the books in Louisiana.

Similarly, Carrie Wooten, director of research and policy for Louisiana Progress, said she will take the poll with her when her group visits Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden and members of the Metro Council. Louisiana Progress, a Baton Rouge advocacy group, and the Capital City Alliance, which lobbies for the LGBT community in Baton Rouge, seeks passage of a “fairness ordinance.”

Earlier efforts to specifically ban discrimination in housing and employment because of sexual orientation has failed in Baton Rouge. But, Shreveport adopted a fairness ordinance last week.

The poll, which was conducted by the LSU Public Policy Research Lab, was an “omnibus” statewide survey, meaning that the three questions about fair treatment for the LGBT community were among other questions commissioned by other groups, such as the University of Southern Mississippi and the Council for A Better Louisiana, said Michael Climek, the operations manager for the LSU lab.

A total of 627 adults from across the state were interviewed over their landline telephones between Nov. 6 and Nov. 26. Another 653 respondents were surveyed over their cell phones. The participants in the poll were adults, but not necessarily registered voters, Climek said.

The margin of error was plus or minus 2.74 percentage points, meaning that if every adult Louisiana was questioned the findings could be off by as much as 2.74 percent than this statistical sampling.