A survey conducted by Public Policy Polling shows Kentucky voters still overwhelmingly oppose same-sex marriage despite national trends.
The poll was taken in early April, and it finds 65 percent think it should remain illegal and only 27 percent support marriage equality for gay, lesbian and transgendered couples.
That is in stark contrast to national figures that indicate marriage equality is gaining popularity across the country and for the first time hovers well over 50 percent. A number of Republican and Democratic senators have come out for marriage equality in recent weeks such as Democrat Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio.
But in Kentucky the idea faces solid opposition regardless of political party. According to PPP, 54 percent of Democratic voters in the state also oppose gay marriage while only 37 percent support it.
The Rev. Maurice Blanchard of Louisville says LGBT residents are getting tired of defending their relationships, adding Kentucky is falling behind the times.
“Those poll shows how disconnected some people are in this state to what’s happening on a larger sense. And that resistance while they’re proud of it is isolating and alienating us from the progress that’s taking place in the larger sense,” he says.
Blanchard, who is gay, made national headlines earlier this year for being arrested after trying to obtain a marriage license. He and his partner have been charged with trespassing for refusing to leave the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office in downtown Louisville.
Gay rights opponents in Kentucky say the PPP numbers affirm the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which passed in a 2004 statewide referendum by 75 percent.
One could argue the latest poll numbers show Kentuckians are slowly warming to the idea given the 10 percent dip. Others who are against same-sex marriage acknowledge the national trends, and tell WFPL it might be inevitable.
“Should it happen it will not affect my view one bit,” says the Rev. Hershael York of Frankfort, who opposes gay marriage. “I don’t resent nor mind someone telling me I’m that behind the times because my goal in life is not to be in step with my culture. My goal in life is to be in step with what The Bible teaches, and whether that’s popular or unpopular is completely irrelevant to me.”
The PPP surveys indicate 52 percent of Kentuckians do favor civil unions for gay and lesbian couples compared to 44 percent who think those relationships should receive no legal recognition.
Even York says while maintaining a moral argument against gay marriage, he is okay with extending certain privileges such as hospital visits and medical records to gay and lesbian couples.
“It reveals Kentucky is still a very conservative state and the conservative nature has a moral basis. It’s a culture backed by a Biblical worldview. These poll numbers show it’s not a personal animus,” he says. “A majority believe there should be civil unions for same-sex couples, but they do not want to redefine marriage.”
Many marriage equality supporters, however, have given up on changing minds and attitudes towards LGBT residents in states like Kentucky. Those gay rights advocates are eager to see the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act.
If the justices rule against that law it may end bans on recognizing same-sex couples regardless of what poll numbers may say.
“I think sometimes it takes the federal government to force equality on states that are resistant to extending the same rights they have to people who are not like them,” says Blanchard. “And that’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is. And that south has always been that way—always.”