published Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Poll: Tennesseans back gays in military but oppose adoption, marriage

By Nate Rau

Patrick McAnally said he generally falls on the conservative side of the political spectrum, where he supports new Gov. Bill Haslam and opposes the federal health care law.

But on the issue of gays serving in the military, adopting children or marrying, McAnally breaks ranks. The 21-year-old Nashville resident believes gays should be allowed to serve in the armed services. He also believes gay couples should be allowed to adopt children, though on issue of marriage, McAnally believes that issue should be decided by individual churches and not the government.

A majority of Tennessee residents agree with McAnally regarding gay soldiers serving in the military according to a poll conducted by Vanderbilt University’s Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. According to the poll, 52 percent of residents favor or strongly favor allowing gays to serve in the military.

Tennesseans oppose adoption rights for gay couples, with nearly 64 percent opposing or strongly in opposition. An even higher number of Tennessee residents — 73 percent — oppose gay marriage.

"This is my chance to jump across the aisle. The state doesn’t need to do marriage, that should be for churches to decide," McAnally said, adding he doesn’t have a problem with gay couples adopting or gay soldiers in the military.

Doug Cooper also finds himself in line with most Tennessee residents. Cooper said he supports repealing the "don’t ask, don’t tell" rule for military service, which effectively prevented soldiers from disclosing their sexuality.

But Cooper said his traditional family values prevent him supporting gay marriage or gay adoption.

"I guess I’m more traditional," said Cooper, a 41-year-old retail worker from Franklin. "I just believe the traditional family is what’s best."

According to the poll conducted last month of 710 Tennessee residents, only 8 percent strongly favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry. On the other hand, 44 percent strongly oppose gay marriage.

On the issue of allowing gay couples to adopt children in Tennessee, 36 percent favored or strongly favored such a law.

Just over 38 percent favored allowing gays to serve in the military and another 14 percent were strongly in favor. According to the poll, 26 percent were in opposition and 22 percent strongly opposed gays serving in the military.

Last year, Congress passed a repeal of the, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ rule put in place in the 1990s by former President Bill Clinton.

Nate Rau can be reached at 615-259-8094 or nrau@tennessean.com

More:

Most in Tennessee support Muslims’ right to build

Majority of Tennesseans say immigrants a burden but oppose deportation

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