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10/13/2011

Not okay: 'Deseret News' uses anti-gay advocate as credible pollster

by Jeremy Hooper

Back during the Prop 8 battle, Mormon writer and pollster Gary Lawrence contributed some of the most jaw-dropping rhetoric around. For instance, check out this summer of '08 article, wherein he framed the whole thing as a battle between "Lucifer" and "the Creator's plan":

(*forgive the unsightly presentation -- it's an archived copy with dead images)

lawrencemeridian

Lawrence was also behind the widely distributed pamphlet (though it was originally printed anonymously):

Six Consequences If Proposition 8 Fails

1. Children in public schools will be taught that both traditional marriage and same-sex marriage are okay.
The California Education Code already requires that health education classes instruct children about marriage. (§51890)
Therefore, if the definition of marriage is changed, children will be taught that marriage is a relation between any two adults. There will be serious clashes between the secular school system and the right of parents to teach their children their own values and beliefs.
2. Churches will be sued if they refuse to allow same-sex marriage ceremonies in their religious buildings that are open to the public. Ask whether your pastor, priest, minister, bishop, or rabbi is ready to perform such marriages in your chapels and sanctuaries.
3. Religious adoption agencies will be challenged by government agencies to give up their long-held right to place children only in homes with both a mother and a father. Catholic Charities in Boston has already closed its doors because of the legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.
4. Religions that sponsor private schools and which provide housing for married students will be required to provide housing for same-sex couples, even if it runs counter to church doctrine, or lose tax exemptions and benefits.
5. Ministers who preach against same-sex marriages will be sued for hate speech and could be fined by the government. It has already happened in Canada, one of six countries that have legalized gay marriage.
6. It will cost you money. A change in the definition of marriage will bring a cascade of lawsuits. Even if courts eventually find in favor of a defender of traditional marriage (highly improbable given today’s activist judges), think of the money – your money, your church contributions – that will have to be spent on legal fees.

This in from Gary Lawrence: Consequences of Do Nothing [Yes on Prop 8 Blog]

The obvious: Lawrence is far from an objective voice or pollster. At the very least, any media outlets who cites his work has a responsibility to elucidate what Gary Lawrence has himself put on the record, so that readers can understand the spirit from whence the data stems.

Which brings us to the heavily Mormon Deseret News, the second largest daily publication in Utah. That paper is now pushing a supposed new poll conducted by Lawrence, without any sort of mention of the pollster's background. Here's a snip and link to the full piece:

Screen Shot 2011-10-13 At 8.35.00 AmSANTA ANA, Calif. — When it comes to polls about same-sex marriage, it's all about how you ask the question. A new national poll by Lawrence Research found that 64 percent of Americans feel that marriage should only be between one man and one woman. Thirty-three percent feel marriage should be redefined to include any two people.

The poll results may seem to contradict a Gallup poll in May that found 53 percent of Americans thought "marriage between same-sex couples should … be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriage."

64% don't support gay marriage new poll says [Deseret News]
(H/t: Bob Barnes)

The paper pits Lawrence against Gallup, as if they are two trusted bookends. The most mention Deseret gives to Lawrence's Prop 8 work comes via this little snip:

Gary Lawrence is the president of Lawrence Research in Santa Ana, Calif., and is very familiar with both the topic and the polling. His company conducted polls in 2008 for the "Yes on 8" campaign, which successfully pushed for the passage of Proposition 8 in California to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

That's it. They don't mention that he actively and aggressively advocated for Prop 8's passage and that he's connected to the "protect marriage" movement. They don't give insight into Lawrence's outwardly religious motivations. They don't mention that he routinely conducts polls for groups like the National Organization For Marriage, even though the paper gives NOM's Maggie Gallagher a forum to comment on how powerful Lawrence's work supposedly is. They simply push the idea that one of America's most trusted polling firms, Gallup, is being handily challenged by another, equally weighted outfit.

That is not only unfair: It is downright negligent!

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