Metro Weekly

Poll: Majority of Virginians support LGBTQ protections

Poll also shows Democrats narrowly favored ahead of this November's statewide elections

James Parrish of Equality Virginia Photo by Todd Franson

James Parrish of Equality Virginia
Photo by Todd Franson

A poll commissioned by LGBTQ rights organization Equality Virginia finds that a majority of Virginia voters support pro-LGBTQ positions on various social issues, including whether the commonwealth should adopt a law prohibiting discrimination in housing.

According to the survey’s findings, 59% of Virginia registered voters support updating the commonwealth’s civil rights laws to include specific protections that would prevent people from being denied housing because they are gay or transgender, while 31% oppose such a move and 10% are undecided.

The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling, which surveyed 849 Virginia voters via phone and online from Sept. 21-23, also finds that Virginia voters aren’t as solidly supportive of marriage equality as the nation as a whole.

While a Gallup poll taken in May has national support for allowing same-sex couples to marry registering at an all-time high of 64%, only 52% percent of Virginians support marriage equality.

Despite the outcry from conservative advocacy groups like Alliance Defending Freedom and Liberty Counsel over schools’ nondiscrimination policies, 57% of voters support for amending those policies to protect gay and transgender students and teachers, while 32% oppose such changes and 12% are not sure.

When asked whether they support or oppose prohibiting mental health providers from using conversion therapy practices on youth under the age of 18 to attempt to change their sexual orientation or gender identity — an idea that has consistently been shot down in the General Assembly — 56% percent of Virginia voters support such a limitation, while 32% oppose it and 12% are not sure.

“Overwhelmingly, Virginia voters want their elected officials to support basic fairness for LGBT families and individuals,” James Parrish, the executive director of Equality Virginia, said in a statement. “Virginians realize that an open and welcoming commonwealth that treats all families equally is the right thing to do and critical for building a stronger economy.”

The poll also gauged support for the three statewide races appearing on this November’s ballot: governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. In the governor’s race, Ralph Northam holds a 43%-40% edge over former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie, with 4% of voters supporting Libertarian nominee Cliff Hyra and 13% who are undecided. A loss by Democrats would not only ensure complete control of all branches of government by Republicans, but would likely pave the way for passage of “religious freedom” laws allowing businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people and anti-transgender “bathroom bills,” ideas which Gillespie said he supported during the GOP primary.

In the much less heralded lieutenant governor’s race, Justin Fairfax, a former assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, holds a six-point edge over State Sen. Jill Vogel (R-Upperville), 43% to 37%, with 21% undecided.

In the contentious attorney general’s race, incumbent AG Mark Herring holds an eight-point edge over John Adams, whose claim to fame was calling for Herring’s impeachment after he refused to defend Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage. Herring currently leads Adams, 46% to 38%, with 16% of voters who are undecided. National Republicans have signaled they will be running ads targeting Democratic attorneys general, including Herring, in addition to supporting the party’s nominees for governor, in order to prevent states from defying the agenda being pursued by President Trump and Republicans in Congress.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com