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Polling unreliable on marriage initiatives: report

Study shows campaigns do little to move voters

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A new report is shedding light on the effectiveness of statewide campaigns against same-sex marriage, although the findings are raising additional questions.

The report — which examines the trend of public opinion on same-sex marriage in 33 states that have had the issue on the ballot — found efforts during campaign periods had very little impact on moving voters to oppose same-sex marriage bans on Election Day.

Additionally, the report found polling data gathered during campaigns on marriage initiatives is misleading because a greater percentage of people vote in favor of same-sex marriage bans than the percentage who tell pollsters they will support the ban.

Patrick Egan, author of the report and a gay political science professor at New York University, made the findings public Tuesday.

He said that he had limited explanations for what caused this behavior among voters. But at a press event in San Francisco, Egan explained that his report dismisses a number of theories popularly used to explain why polling data for marriage ballot questions doesn’t accurately reflect election results.

One theory that Egan advances in his report — but says he finds no evidence to support — is the idea that responders are lying to pollsters when they say they’ll vote against a same-sex marriage ban so that they seem more tolerant.

Such a phenomenon would be similar to the “Bradley effect,” a theory that polling participants would lie to pollsters by saying they’ll vote for a non-white person in an election and instead vote for a white candidate at the polls.

Egan dismissed this theory with regard to marriage initiatives after looking at several contexts in which voters may feel more social pressure to vote in opposition to bans on same-sex marriage, such as in states with a greater population of openly gay, lesbian and bisexual people, or polls conducted by live interviewers as opposed to automated pollsters.

In all these contexts, Egan said he could find “no discrepancy” in voters being more truthful about what they’re telling pollsters in certain states or in certain situations.

“All of the findings here just show that voters do not appear to be lying to public opinion pollsters when they are asked about their support for same-sex marriage bans,” Egan said.

Another theory that Egan refutes with regard to the discrepancy between polls and election results is that voters are confused about what a “yes” vote and a “no” vote entails on an initiative. Egan said this theory doesn’t hold up because polling information is as unreliable at the start of the campaign — before voters have been educated on the subject — as it is closer to Election Day.

“The gap does not become smaller over the course of the campaigns, so polls are just as accurate on the night before Election Day as they are six months out — just as inaccurate, I should say,” he said.

Egan said this theory is shown to be invalid when comparing polling data and election results from states with more educated voters to states with less educated voters.

“Even in states where voters are informed — that is, we know from other data that state residents tend to be more interested, engaged and informed about politics — we are not seeing that gap become any smaller than in states where voters don’t pay too much attention to politics at all,” Egan said.

In an attempt to determine why polling data on the marriage issue is unreliable, Egan said his answer as a political scientist is “more research is needed,” but also speculated it may relate to how pollsters determine likely voters.

Noting that most of the surveys in his report are of likely voters, Egan said pollsters could be screening out people who would vote for same-sex marriage bans on Election Day.

“That would help explain the difference we see between polling and election results, and why it’s so consistent over time,” he said.

A number of LGBT civil rights leaders at the San Francisco press conference said they intend to use the report to guide strategy for future ballot initiatives on marriage. Activists in California, where Proposition 8 ended gay nuptials in 2008, are looking to bring the issue of same-sex marriage back to the ballot to reverse the initiative in 2012.

Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, said the findings show voters are “at their least persuadable” during the course of a campaign.

“But when we look over the last decade at the amazing movement we’ve seen on what is one of the most challenging social issues to move people on, we’ve seen that the movement happens not during the campaign, but away from the campaign,” Kors said.

He noted that California in 2000 passed Prop 22, a statutory ban on same-sex marriage by 23 points, and in 2008 passed Prop 8, the constitutional ban, by four points.

“All that movement happened not in the couple months before Prop 8, but in the years between those elections,” he said.

Kors said the process is continuing in California with recent public polls showing a 50 percent or majority support for same-sex marriage.

Kate Kendell, executive director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, also said the study demonstrates efforts to change the hearts and minds of voters must be made before a campaign begins.

“In the midst of a campaign, voters are perhaps least likely to have their views changed — particularly on an issue like marriage, an issue they feel like they understand and know,” she said.

Kendell said “it’s absolutely clear” in the fight for same-sex marriage that conversations “need to happen now about who we are, our lives, our families, our children, our hopes and dreams.”

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Pennsylvania

Pa. House passes bill to repeal state’s same-sex marriage ban

Measure now goes to Republican-controlled state Senate

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Pennsylvania Capitol Building (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Democratic-controlled Pennsylvania House of Representatives on July 2 passed a bill that would repeal the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

The marriage bill passed by a 133-68 vote margin, with all but one Democrat voting for it. Thirty-two Republicans backed the measure.

The bill’s next hurdle is to pass in the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Senate.

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia), a gay man who is running for state auditor, noted to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review the bill would eliminate a clause in Pennsylvania’s marriage law that defines marriage as “between one man and one woman.” The measure would also change the legal definition of marriage in the state to “a civil contract between two individuals.”

Kenyatta did not return the Washington Blade’s requests for comment.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 in Obergefell v. Hodges extended marriage rights to same-sex couples across the country. 

Justice Clarence Thomas in the 2022 decision that struck down Roe v. Wade said the Supreme Court should reconsider the Obergefell decision and the Lawrence v. Texas ruling that said laws that criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations are unconstitutional. President Joe Biden at the end of that year signed the Respect for Marriage Act, which requires the federal government and all U.S. states and territories to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages.

Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin earlier this year signed a bill that codified marriage rights for same-sex couples in state law. Pennsylvania lawmakers say the marriage codification bill is necessary in case the Supreme Court overturns marriage rights for same-sex couples in their state and across the country.

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Pennsylvania

Western Pa. transgender girl killed, dismembered

Pauly Likens, 14, brutally murdered last month

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(Photo courtesy of the LGBTQIA+ Alliance Shenango Valley)

Editor’s note: The Philadelphia Gay News originally published this story.

BY TIM CWIEK | Prosecutors are pledging justice for Pauly Likens, a 14-year-old transgender girl from Sharon, Pa., who was brutally killed last month. Her remains were scattered in and around a park lake in western Pennsylvania.

“The bottom line is that we have a 14-year-old, brutally murdered and dismembered,” said Mercer County District Attorney Peter C. Acker in an email. “Pauly Likens deserves justice, her family deserves justice, and we seek to deliver that justice.”

On June 23, DaShawn Watkins allegedly met Likens in the vicinity of Budd Street Public Park and Canoe Launch in Sharon, Pa., and killed her. Watkins subsequently dismembered Likens’s corpse with a saw and scattered her remains in and around Shenango River Lake in Clark Borough.

On July 2, Watkins was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, aggravated assault, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence. He’s being held without bail in the Mercer County jail.

The coroner’s office said the cause of death was sharp force trauma to the head and ruled the manner of death as homicide.

Cell phone records, social media and surveillance video link Watkins to the crime. Additionally, traces of Likens’s blood were found in and around Watkins’s apartment in Sharon, Pa., authorities say.

A candlelight vigil is being held Saturday, July 13, in remembrance of Likens. It’s being hosted by LGBTQIA+ Alliance Shenango Valley. The vigil begins at 7 p.m. at 87 Stambaugh Ave. in Sharon, Pa.

Pamela Ladner, president of the Alliance, mourned Likens’s death. 

“Pauly’s aunt described her as a sweet soul, inside and out,” Ladner said in an email. “She was a selfless child who loved nature and wanted to be a park ranger like her aunt.”

Acker, the prosecutor, said Likens’s death is one of the worst crimes he’s seen in 46 years as an attorney. But he cautioned against calling it a hate crime. “PSP [Pennsylvania State Police] does not believe it in fact is one [hate crime] because the defendant admitted to being a homosexual and the victim was reportedly a trans girl,” Acker asserted.

Acker praised the criminal justice agencies who worked on the case, including the Pennsylvania State Police, the Hermitage Police Department, the Sharon Police Department, park rangers from the Shenango Reservoir, Mercer County Coroner John Libonati, and cadaver dog search units.

“The amount of hours dedicated to the identification of the victim and the filing of charges against the defendant is a huge number,” Acker added. “We take the murder of any individual very seriously, expressly when they are young and brutally killed and dismembered.”

Acker also noted that all criminal defendants are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

This is a developing story.

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National

TransTech Social removing barriers to trans success

‘Technology was the key to my freedom’

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From left, TransTech members B Hawk Snipes, E.C. Pizarro III, Ang R Bennett, and Adrian Elim. (Photo by Lexi Webster Photography)

It is common knowledge that women earn 84% of the average worker. Less common knowledge? Trans women earn 60% of the average worker. Trans men and non-binary people come in at around 70%, while 16% of all trans people make less than $10,000 annually. 

E.C. Pizarro III was lucky, and he knew it. He had a BFA in graphic design and had taught himself how to code. As a stealth trans man in a corporate job, he had access to a stable wage and good benefits. “People that do not have experiences in corporate America or with equitable employment don’t realize [these things] are privileges that a lot of people don’t have access to.” 

He wanted to give back and was gearing up to bring more volunteer work into his life by participating in a fraternity for trans men. When he went to a TransTech event and learned about the educational and career resources for trans people who face barriers to entering the workforce, he knew he had found his place. 

At the event he met, Angelica Ross. Yes, that Angelica Ross, of “Pose” and “American Horror Story.”

Before she was Candy, Ross was a self-taught coder. She went from posing for an adult website to doing its back-end coding to teaching her trans siblings how to succeed in tech. 

“Technology was the key to my freedom,” Ross said in an interview with The Plug. “Technology took me from being exploited on someone’s website to building my own websites and to building websites for other people and getting paid to do so.”

Pizarro was impressed and wanted to help. “I went up to Angelica and I was like ‘Hey, I’m a trans man. These are my skills. I’m down to volunteer and do any type of work—the one caveat is that I’m stealth. You can’t tell anybody that I’m trans.’”

For four years, Pizarro helped from mostly behind the scenes, sometimes getting side-eyed since people thought he was a cis man in trans spaces. “I was still stealth as the Director of Social Media and Communications for the National Trans Visibility March in 2019,” Pizarro says, chuckling a little.

But by that point, Ross — who headlined the 2019 march — was overextended trying to balance being a world-famous actress, advocate, and businesswoman. 

She needed someone to step in as executive director of TransTech and looked to the group of dedicated volunteers. Pizarro was elected by his peers to take the reins of the organization. 

This was a turning point for Pizarro. “I’m very passionate about tech and for me a small sacrifice of being open with my trans experience to liberate other trans people,” he said. “I felt like if that’s something I got to do, then I’m gonna do it.”

And he did it. The infrastructure Ross put together worked: with mentorship, education, community, and networking with trans-accepting employers, trans people were gaining financial security and independence. 

So, Pizarro focused on expanding TransTech as widely as possible. “We have grown exponentially over the last three years,” he says. “When I took over in 2021, we had about 800 members based in the United States. Now we support over 6,700 members across 50 countries.”

TransTech is filling a demonstrated need within specifically the trans community. New research from LGBT Tech found that 68% of transgender adults use the internet to find LGBTQ-friendly employment (compared to 38% of cisgender LGBTQ+ adults). More than 70% of all LGBTQ adults use the Internet to access educational content.

Accessibility is central to the TransTech programming. Despite the growth, everything remains free. “There’s no membership fee. All of our programming is free. All of the certifications and educational resources are free,” Pizarro says. 

They know the financial burden the trans community faces — 29% of trans adults live in poverty. “If we’re asking anyone to up-skill [for a cost] and these are the things they are going through, we are asking them to invest in their future versus their meal today.” 

Pizarro believes that accessibility is more than just making the training free. He wants the community to understand that tech work is something they are innately capable of doing. 

“TransTech was built on the foundation of nontraditional tech. It’s not always coding. It’s graphic design. It’s social media. It’s video editing. It’s anything that uses a piece of technology and nowadays almost everything uses a piece of technology,” says Pizarro.

He emphasizes to participants: “You’re in tech and you don’t even know it,” pointing out how many already utilize tech skills like marketing and monetization with their social media accounts.

Some people involved in the programming are nervous about entering the “tech world” because of headlines about tech layoffs. He makes sure to emphasize that unlike in some other jobs, tech companies often pay generous severance packages, which gives employees “breathing room.” Pizzaro explains that “once you have experience with one tech company, you can go someplace else and make a substantial amount of money as well.” 

While TransTech is designed for the gender-diverse community, the programming is open to everyone Pizarro explains. “We just ask that you don’t be transphobic.” (Or any of the other -phobics too, he says, listing them off.) He also emphasizes that this allows trans members who are not out to comfortably participate. 

Pizarro wants everyone to understand that they don’t just belong in tech, but they make tech better. “Tech is most profitable when you have diverse people building the tech and using the tech,” Pizarro says. “There is an intentional funding as well as support to diversity tech because they understand how that impacts the product.”

He also reminds participants that they have developed transferrable skills in every part of their lives. “I like to tell people if you can manage your life as a trans person in the United States or anywhere you can manage a project.”

(This story is part of the Digital Equity Local Voices Fellowship lab through News is Out. The lab initiative is made possible with support from Comcast NBCUniversal.)

Angelica Ross was a self-taught coder before she hit it big with ‘Pose.’ (Washington Blade file photo by Linus Berggren)
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