Details scant on marriage amendment poll touted by GOP


A recent poll finds that a majority of Minnesotans want to vote on whether to put an amendment to ban gay marriage in the Minnesota Constitution, but the groups touting the survey are remaining mum about the poll’s details. The data has been used by testifiers in committees in support of banning gay marriage, by Republicans at Capitol press conferences and by interest groups to the media. It was commissioned by the Minnesota Family Council and the National Organization for Marriage — two groups that oppose relationship rights for same-sex couples — and was conducted by Lawrence Research, whose president is a Mormon organizer who worked to pass Prop 8 in California.

Neither the Minnesota Family Council nor the National Organization for Marriage responded to requests by the Minnesota Independent to see the polling data, and Lawrence Research said it could not release polling data that was purchased by an outside group.

Lawrence Research is run by Gary Lawrence, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the grassroots director of Project Marriage, a group that helped halt gay marriage in California’s contentious Prop 8 initiative campaign.

According to State of California records, Lawrence research was paid $528,877.35 from gay marriage opponents in 2007 and 2008.

MFC/NOM’s poll, conducted by Lawrence in January of 600 registered voters, found that 74 percent “believe the people, not the legislature, should decide the definition of marriage.” It also showed that 56 percent of voters thought that only the heterosexual marriages should be recognized in Minnesota. Forty-two percent disagreed with that.

MFC/NOM and Lawrence Research teamed up in 2010 in a poll showing that voters who wanted a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage picked Republican candidate Tom Emmer. That poll asked if marriage “should be redefined to be any two people regardless of gender.”

Similar polls have been done in other states, and with similar results to the recent one in Minnesota. The Maryland General Assembly earlier this year moved legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage in that state. The poll found that 54 percent opposed same-sex marriage, 37 percent approved and 78 percent wanted Maryland voters to vote on the issue directly.

Because the Legislature was moving a controversial bill, a number of polls were conducted this winter and spring. In January, Annapolis-based research company Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies found that 51 percent of Marylanders wanted gay marriage to be legal. Another poll taken in January by Grove Insight found that 49 percent favored marriage equality and 41 percent were against it.

The story is similar in Minnesota.

A Hubert H. Humphrey Institute poll in October of last year showed that 49 percent of Minnesotans opposed same-sex marriage compared to 41 percent who supported it. In that poll, 64 percent of Minnesotans said they would support civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. The poll shows most Minnesotans were opposed to gay marriage by 49-41 percent, but 64 percent of Minnesotans across the categories favor civil unions for same-sex couples, which grant many of the same rights as marriage.

A 2009 Star Tribune poll found that only 33 percent of Minnesotans wanted a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, 35 percent said leave it to the courts, and 25 percent backed legalizing same-sex marriage.

MPR/Pioneer Press did a poll in 2006 that is more in line with the results of the MFC/NOM poll. At the time, 54 percent of respondents opposed legalizing same-sex marriage while 29 percent said they supported legalizing it.