Majority in state back gay marriage

55% say they want Washington licenses for same-sex couples

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

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Vancouver resident Robert Meyer married his wife more than a year ago. He hopes gays and lesbians will gain the same right in 2012.

“Some people have a moral issue with it,” said Meyer, 31. “I don’t have that. It would not bug me if same-sex marriage was legal. It doesn’t take away from the sanctity of my marriage.”

Meyer’s opinion appears to be the prevailing one in the state. About 55 percent of state residents favor legalizing same-sex marriage, according to an October poll by The Washington Poll.

The nonpartisan Washington Poll reexamined and released its analysis of the poll results Friday in the wake of a new bill championed by Gov. Christine Gregoire to make Washington the seventh state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage. Lawmakers will consider the proposal during a 60-day legislative session that begins Monday.

The poll, led by University of Washington doctoral student Betsy Cooper, examined how state voters would vote on a possible 2012 referendum on same-sex marriage. The results also speak to whether lawmakers would have the support of their constituents in approving the new bill.

Researchers divided the state into three regions: Puget Sound, the rest of Western Washington, and Eastern Washington, east of the Cascade Range.

Support for marriage equality was strongest in the Puget Sound area, where 63 percent of respondents in favor. In the rest of Western Washington, about 53 percent support same-sex marriage. About 43 percent of respondents supported it in Eastern Washington.

About 938 registered voters participated in the poll. Fifty-five of them were from Clark County, Cooper said.

Younger voters were more likely to vote in favor of same-sex marriage than older ones. About 65 percent of respondents ages 18 to 40, 59 percent of those ages 41 to 65, and 48 percent of people ages 66 and up said they would support such a measure.

Women were more supportive of same-sex marriage than men in the poll. About 58 percent of women said they would vote for legalizing marriage between lesbians and gays compared with 54 percent of men.

Vancouver resident Amy Boswell, 36, said she supports legalizing same-sex marriage.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Boswell said. “It shouldn’t matter whether someone is gay or straight. If two people love each other, they should be able to be married and have all the rights and responsibilities that go along with marriage.”

Not surprisingly, Democrats were far more likely to support same-sex marriage than Republicans. About 84 percent of Democratic respondents said they would vote to legalize same-sex marriage; about 70 percent of Republicans said they would vote against it. Independents were more divided over the matter. About 54 percent of independents said they would vote in favor of same-sex marriage.

Vancouver resident Mike Caruso, 43, who describes himself as a conservative, opposes legalizing same-sex marriage. His friend Monte Constable, 38, a Democrat, supports it.

“I believe marriage is between a man and woman. Period,” Caruso said. “If you start screwing up the formula, you have people asking, ‘Why can’t I marry a man and a woman?’”

“That’s because you listen to Glenn Beck,” Constable retorted, referring to the conservative radio talk show.

Constable said he supports legalizing same-sex marriage.

“To me, marriage is a legal contract as much as anything,” Constable said. “I don’t see same-sex marriage as eroding marriage.”

“I think there’s biology behind (homosexuality),” he said. “I don’t see why people would choose to be gay in a society that clearly is not. It’s more of a hassle. People look down on you. You don’t have the same rights.”

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://twitter.com/Col_Trends;http://facebook.com/ColTrends;paris.achen@columbian.com