WEAU | Eau Claire, Wisconsin | News

Polls show changes in attitude towards LGBT rights

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) – The latest USA Today and Gallup poll show momentum for LGBT equality is growing.

The poll found that a majority of Americans now support a number equality issues including same-sex marriage, climbing to 53 percent.

In a survey of people who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, nine out of ten say they feel the community is more accepting.

Over at “The Lounge” in Eau Claire, those who identify themselves as LGBT and as gay rights supporters say they’re seeing much of the same.

"I think with the education levels increasing and as people learn and find out, hey, their neighbor is gay or their uncle or what have you, people are more understanding of the situation,” says owner of The Lounge and Vita Bella Ristorante Ryan Miescke.

Still, some say discrimination still exists, echoing times when African Americans and women were mistreated.

“Some people are insecure. They will say really hurtful things. They'll scream it out of car windows. We have a long ways to go. But as long as we keep that kind of idea in mind, then there’s no reason we won't progress forward,” says Josh Riedl who is among one of the first gay students to run for homecoming at UW-Eau Claire.

General Manager and chef at Vita Bella, Christine Peterson says the area she came from in Chicago has shown more progressive attitude towards gay rights than she’s seen in some Wisconsin areas.

"We need to move forward and accept and work together to build a stronger future for our children,” says Peterson.

Polls show while the majority supports same-sex marriage, 46 percent oppose it.

A third would go further, saying gay or lesbian relations between consenting adults should be illegal.

The majority of those who are for keeping marriage between a man and a woman say it's a decision based on their religion.

But in the midst of the opposition, the owner at The Lounge says it's important to him to provide a safe space for the entire community.

"We're a people bar. We're straight friendly and gay friendly. I want everyone to feel welcome there,” says Miescke.

The poll numbers come in the wake of a historic election for gay rights supporters.

In November, Maine, Maryland and Washington voted to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote.

Minnesota defeated a proposed amendment that would have defined marriage as between a man and woman.

And in Wisconsin, Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay member of the U.S. Senate.


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