A Tale of Two Press Conferences
It was one of those “only in Washington” moments, when it became clear that the press conference for a new poll showing Americans support repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was being held next door to a press conference for a new ad by conservative activists warning about the threat of same-sex marriage. The great debate over LGBT civil rights was suddenly distilled onto the hallway of the National Press Club!
At noon you could hear about the release of a new poll showing Americans support gay rights. At 1:00pm you were free to stop in and listen to the case for denying same-sex couples marriage rights. In one room sat a rumpled statistician discussing how the largest, independent poll ever taken of American attitudes towards gays and lesbians showed overwhelming support for allowing openly gay Americans to serve in the military. In the next room sat a disgruntled beauty queen making a sorry bid to become a latter-day Anita Bryant.
In one room: science and fact. In the other room: blond highlights and fear.
First, the Quinnipiac University Press Conference. 2,041 registered voters nationwide were polled from April 21-27, 2009 on their attitudes towards issues of LGBT civil rights. The results, with a margin of error of 2.2%, reveal that Americans support repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by 56-37%. More interestingly, it found 50% of military households supported repeal of DADT and that 36% of Americans still believe being gay is a choice.
Peter Brown, Assistant Director for the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute also told reporters that Black and Hispanic respondents were most likely to view the struggle for LGBT civil rights as a continuation of the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. 63% of Hispanics and 45% of Blacks (a plurality) agreed with the statement, “ending discrimination against gay men and women is as necessary today as ending discrimination against blacks was in the 1960s.”
In the next room the National Organization for Marriage introduced its new spokeswoman Ms. California Carrie Prejean, who smiled behind capped teeth while Maggie Gallagher asked reporters, “What will [gays and lesbians] do once they have the power of the law on their side?” Enough said.
Standing along that hallway of the National Press Club this afternoon, I was reminded that the debate over LGBT civil rights can really be boiled down to one central fact: it’s all about facts vs. fear; and in the end, the facts will always win out.