The states with the most support for laws that protect the LGBTQ community fall in two expected liberal strongholds — New Hampshire and Vermont — as well as one not-so-expected conservative outlier: Utah.
A new poll released Monday by the Public Religion Research Institute showed that more than three-quarters of Utahns, surprisingly, favor laws that protect LGBTQ residents from discrimination. That support puts it second highest in the rankings nationwide, behind New Hampshire and tied with Vermont. In fact, it’s the only Republican state in the top five.
“I’m just super proud that we continue to defy expectations and stereotypes," said Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah. “I’m gushing. This is not happening in other conservative states.”
Utah is a deeply red and highly religious place. But the state has also embraced measures to improve equity.
“This poll reveals that Utah can model for the rest of the nation how to work together," Williams added.
“We should embrace this support and continue to make even more progress,” she said.
New Hampshire came in on top at 81% support and 11% opposed. And Vermont had 77% in favor and 17% against — slightly lower than Utah for opposition.
Meanwhile, Arkansans were the least likely — 56% — to support protecting the rights of LGBTQ citizens. And Wyoming residents expressed the highest level of opposition at 37% against.
But, overall, the support was broad and deep. A majority of those polled in every state favored anti-discrimination laws, as do majorities in all age groups and every political party.
In Utah, all religious affiliations also supported legal statutes for the LGBTQ community. That includes the dominant faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members were 70% in favor.
In response, the church put out a statement: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long advocated for a balanced approach to protecting religious freedoms while extending protections to LGBT people. This fairness for all approach was implemented in Utah in 2015, and along with many other religious and LGBT groups, we believe Utah’s approach would be a good model at the federal level.”
Some believe the church, as well as other religions, has been the biggest obstacle in passing laws to protect the community. Biskupski said, “You certainly shouldn’t stand behind your religion to not serve someone who is a lesbian like me.”
“We’re having some conversations that are difficult for a baseline conservative, religiously fundamentalist state,” the Republican said. "But Utahns are awfully, awfully good people.”
The LDS Church, he acknowledged, put its support behind the measure four years ago and was a huge reason why it became a law. Even still, many in the community said there’s more that can be done both by the faith and the state, as a whole.
Still, she continues to work with clients in the state who have, despite the law, been discriminated against in job and housing applications. A federal statute, she believes, would offer more protection.
Snow, the transgender political candidate, would like to see more safeguards, such as for medical care. Doctors throughout the state, Snow said, may improperly deny help to LGBTQ patients.
What has improved, however, is that LGBTQ individuals in general are more visible now than they were in the past, Snow added. That helps everyone to better understand and respect the community, she said. And she hopes support will continue to rise from 77% to 100%.