The terms “Oklahoma” and “gay rights” are not exactly synonymous. With lawmakers like state Rep. Sally Kern decrying the so-called “homosexual agenda,” and state passage of a law that deems marriage as only being between one man and one woman, the Sooner State is not exactly fertile ground for the gay rights movement.
But could there be a soft spot when it comes to gays and lesbians serving in the military?
A new survey by SoonerPoll.com found that, while a majority of Oklahomans don’t want a repeal of the federal government’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, it’s not in solid support of the rule.
Graph: Repeal of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy in the military.
The poll asked 500 statewide registered voters if the government should repeal the policy that allows homosexuals to serve in the military as long as they keep their sexual preference a secret. Just more than 48 percent disagreed with repealing the policy, while a little more than 34 percent wanted repeal.
The fact that the disagreeing side had less than 50 percent came as a bit of a surprise to the poll’s authors.
“As conservative as this state is, and traditional as it is in its values, you would have expected a stronger level of support for maintaining the policy,” said Keith Gaddie, SoonerPoll.com vice president and University of Oklahoma political scientist.
The policy was adopted by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The policy maintains that once a service member’s homosexuality is out in the open, he or she may be discharged. More than 13,500 military personnel have been let go for violating the policy since its adoption, according to Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
“I think this goes to sex issues in general,” Gaddie said. “In a traditional conservative society, you just don’t talk about this stuff. A policy that is seen as ‘no harm, no foul,’ if it’s kept private, has support.”
But since Barack Obama took over the presidency, a movement is under way to repeal it. Obama made such a pledge during his 2008 campaign for the White House. Several high-ranking military officials have also stated a change is needed.
When breaking the Oklahoma poll numbers down, repeal has more support among Democrats and independents than Republicans, but is evenly split between men and women. One difference came among married and unmarried, with single voters favoring repeal by nearly 10 points more than married respondents.
There were also big differences between liberals and conservatives, and religious viewpoints. Voters who consider themselves evangelicals strongly disagreed with repeal by nearly 12 points from nonevangelicals. The gap was even wider between conservatives and liberals, constituting a 24-point gap between those who label themselves “very liberal” and “very conservative.”
With moderates, 32 percent agreed with repealing the policy, compared to nearly 51 percent opposing repeal. “Scott Cooper
Poll source: SoonerPoll.com.