A survey of voting-age Alabamians found that a majority strongly support a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which is an issue getting lots of attention in the current session of the Alabama legislature.
In the survey, conducted by a polling service at Auburn University, 54% said they strongly supported a constitutional amendment, 4% mildly supported it, 11% were indifferent, 5% mildly opposed it, and 23% strongly opposed it.
Poll director Jim Seroka said Tuesday the surprising part of the survey was that only 3% had no opinion, which is unusually small. The issue has captured people's attention, he said, because "you're dealing with the family."
Howard Bayless, a board member of the gay rights group Equality Alabama, said if people are so concerned about protecting families and marriage, then they ought to focus on reducing the state's divorce rate. "Over 50% of the marriages in Alabama end in divorce. Gay and lesbians did not cause these divorces," he said.
In 2003, Alabama had 7.5 marriages and 5.2 divorces for each 1,000 people, according to the Alabama Center for Health Statistics.
Democrat and Republican caucuses in the house and senate have made passage of the gay marriage ban a priority. The "Ask Alabama" poll found support stronger among Republicans than Democrats. Of those identifying themselves as Republican, 69% expressed strong support, compared with 38% of Democrats.
The survey, conducted by Auburn's Center for Governmental Services, involved telephone interviews with 624 randomly selected Alabama residents who were 19 and older. The interviews were conducted January 24 through February 3, and the poll had sampling error margins of plus or minus four percentage points.
The survey found that support in the state had grown and opposition had declined since the same question was posed to Alabamians in July 2004. Then 48% expressed strong support, and 28% voiced strong opposition.
A poll in March 2004 by the Mobile Register and University of South Alabama found that nearly 80% of the Alabamians surveyed said they disapprove or strongly disapprove of allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. Both polls were taken shortly after highly publicized gay marriages in Boston and San Francisco. Seroka said those ceremonies and having the issue on ballots in 11 states in November have caused public interest to swell.
In the legislature, the debate has not been over whether to pass the constitutional amendment but when to present it to Alabama voters for approval.
Seroka said the survey results indicate that Democrats wouldn't want the issue placed on the general election ballot in November 2006 because it would bring out very conservative voters who might not have voted otherwise and would likely vote for Republican candidates. On the other hand, Republicans wouldn't want it on the primary election in June 2006 because the very conservative voters might skew the primary results more conservative than they would normally be. (AP)