CV publishes first ever poll of gay attitudes to same-sex marriage

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See reports in Daily Mail here and Telegraph here.

NB Re sample size, margin of error, etc. -- see "background note" below.  

The first ever professionally-conducted poll of gay people’s attitudes to same-sex marriage reveals that for more than 6 out of 10 gay people in the UK, ‘true equality’ in marriage means being able to marry in places of worship – something which the coalition government says its proposed legislation will not allow.

Only 39 per cent think redefining marriage is a priority for gay people, while only half say it is important to them personally. Just above a quarter (27%) say they would consider getting married if the law permitted it.
 
The poll also reveals deep suspicion among gay people about David Cameron’s motives: fewer than one in five believe the Prime Minister is backing the move out of conviction. 
 
And in a blow for the gay rights lobby, the survey reveals that fewer than half of gay people accept Stonewall’s main argument for same-sex marriage, that a legal distinction between civil partnerships and same-sex marriage perpetuates discrimination.
 
The survey, carried out by ComRes for Catholic Voices between 17 April and 20 May, asked a series of questions of 541 adults (out of more than 10,000) who described themselves as gay/lesbian or bisexual. The questions (mostly in the form of statements) were intended to gauge gay peoples’ attitudes to the Government’s plans to redefine marriage. You can download the full tables here
 
(The percentage of people self-identifying as gay (around 5 per cent) in this poll is higher than the 2010 ONS Integrated Household Survey, which recorded 1.5 per cent of the UK’s population, or 726,000 people, as LGB. The higher proportion in the ComRes poll reflects that fact that online polls tend to attract younger, urban populations where numbers of gay people are higher.) 
 
The poll reveals the likely take-up in the event of marriage being opened to same-sex couples. On the basis of the 2010 ONS figures, the Government is proposing a radical redefinition of everyone’s marriage for the sake of 0.4% of the population. 
 
Among the survey's most significant findings:
More than a quarter (26%) believe there is no need to change the law on marriage because civil partnerships give the same rights, while fewer than half agree with Stonewall’s view that not allowing same-sex marriage worsens public attitudes to gay people.  
 
Almost half believe “David Cameron is only trying to extend marriage to LGBT people to make his party look more compassionate rather than because of his convictions”, while only 19% disagree. 
 
More than two-thirds (77%) of gay people disagree that marriage should be only between a man and a woman, and the same number (72%) believe “marriage is more about love between two people than it is about rearing children”. 
 
But only half (50%) of the LGB population think it is important to extend marriage to same-sex couples, while just over one in four (27%) would marry their partner if the law allowed it – just one percentage point more than those not in a civil partnership who would seriously consider one. 
 
A clear majority (61%) of gay people believe that “true equality” would mean same-sex couples could marry in religious, as well as civil, locations – and a third (35%) believe in forcing faith groups to perform same-sex weddings.
The poll shows that for gay people this is very far from being an pressing issue of human rights, equality and discrimination. Gay people do not regard same-sex marriage as a priority, and show no more enthusiasm for it than for civil partnerships, which give the same legal advantages.  Most gay people do not believe they are discriminated against by not being able to marry. 
 
Dr Austen Ivereigh, Catholic Voices coordinator, said:
 
"Perhaps now we can have the debate we should have had all along: about whether this really is a good thing for society; whether there is a compelling public case for a radical redefinition of a foundational civil-society institution; whether the state has a mandate for this at all. The current definition of marriage in law is the fruit of prudence and has real benefits. Marriage as always understood sends society vital messages about the importance of children being raised by their natural parents. There is no mandate for this change – even among those who are supposed to benefit from it.”
 
An earlier ComRes poll, also commissioned by Catholic Voices, found that 70% of British people agreed with the churches that the current definition of marriage should be left alone. This new poll shows that the proposal to redefine marriage divides gay people as well as everyone else. Put together, the surveys destroy the myth that the Churches are pitted against the interests of gay people. The first survey showed that the Churches' opposition to same-sex marriage is not an attempt to impose a sectarian morality but reflects the views of the broad majority of non-churchgoing British opinion. This survey explodes the myth that the "gay community" is of one mind on the issue; gay people - many of whom are Christian believers, churchgoers and opponents of same-sex marriage -- are divided and unsure, and far from the views of advocates of same-sex marriage. 
 
The Government's consultation on same-sex marriage ends on Thursday. Both the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the Equalities Minister, Lynne Featherstone, have made clear that they intend to legislate for same-sex marriage by the end of this Parliament in 2015. 
 
The Government has insisted that the laws will protect religious institutions and places of worship from the effects of any change in the law. Yet wherever same-sex marriage has been introduced, the change in law has created a stick with which to beat those who believe in the traditional understanding of marriage. As Michael Coren notes, in Canada there have been more than 200 proceedings against critics of same-sex marriage in less than five years. This poll shows that for those gay people who care about the issue, true equality means allowing or forcing places of worship to perform gay weddings -- a view likely to be backed by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Our religious institutions are right to be worried that any new law would quickly lead to legal challenges and pressure. 
 
Colin Hart, Campaign Director of the Coalition for Marriage (C4M) says:
“This poll confirms yet again that only a handful of people are pushing the Government to redefine marriage. Even amongst those within the gay community, there is no majority who thinks that this is a priority. The gay community’s skepticism about the PM’s motives echoes the views in the wider population.  Former Labour Minister Ben Bradshaw was absolutely right when he described these plans as ‘pure politics’. The Government should ditch these proposals, which are profoundly undemocratic and have never been put before the British public."
 
BACKGROUND POINTS:
 
1. METHODOLOGY: SAMPLE SIZE AND MARGIN OF ERROR. ComRes surveyed a representative sample of 541 adults from 27 April to 20 May 2012 who self-identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or other non-heterosexual. Data were weighted to be representative demographically of the wider GB adult population.  ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. The margin of error on this sample size is around +/-4% (because the ‘universe’ is 700,000) which compares to +/-3% margin on a sample size of 1000 for a regular nationally representative poll of the wider population. Given the gay population size in the country overall, therefore, this is not a small sample size.
 
2.The petition run by the Coalition for Marriage has attracted almost 550,000 signatures. It says: “I support the legal definition of marriage which is the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. I oppose any attempt to redefine it.” You can sign it here
 
3. The Catholic Voices briefing paper, 'In Defence of Conjugality', can be downloaded here. You can listen to a debate between Catholic Voices and the British Humanist Association here.  
 
4. Respond to the Government consultation here. The Consultation closes on Thursday. 

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