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Surprise! NOM Touts Anti-Equality Activist For Maryland Poll

February 17, 2011 2:49 pm ET by Tom Allison

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) released a new poll today purporting to show that a majority of Maryland voters "believe that marriage should only be between a man and a woman." The poll's veracity however, is undermined by the fact that it was conducted by a Mormon Republican pollster with a history of anti-equality advocacy.

The poll, commissioned by NOM was conducted by Dr. Gary C. Lawrence, founder and head of California-based Lawrence Research. Lawrence is a long-time Republican consultant and pollster who organized Mormon volunteers in 2009 in California supporting Prop 8, served as the area grass roots coordinator of the Church of Latter Day Saints' Yes on 8 campaign, and contributed $5,000 to the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign.

More recently, Lawrence Research was reportedly busy working on the successful campaign to recall three of the Iowa Supreme Court Justices who found it unconstitutional to ban gay marriage in Iowa.

This isn't the first time that NOM has tapped their favorite anti-equality pollster. Last September NOM and the Minnesota Family Council (MFC) commissioned Lawrence to conduct a poll that found that Minnesota voters would support a gubernatorial candidate opposed to marriage equality. You might remember it was MFC President Tom Prichard who suggested that gay suicides could be attributed to "unhealthy and harmful" behavior.

The NOM release also quotes Lawrence's claim that previous polls showing support for gay marriage explained the benefits of marriage equality so therefore "injects a bias":

Another poll conducted in January claimed that Maryland voters favor same-sex marriage by a 51-44 margin, but used the phrase "giving them the same legal rights as heterosexual married couples in areas such as tax exemptions, inheritance and pension coverage."  According to Dr. Gary Lawrence of Lawrence Research, the addition of this pro-legalization argument - couching the legalization of same-sex marriage as only about granting rights and benefits to gay couples - without a counter-balancing statement from the opposing side injects a bias into those results.

But concern over including facts into poll question hasn't been a concern for Lawrence in the past. In a 1991 press release (accessed via Nexis) from Rep. Jack Fields' (R-TX) office on Lawrence's poll touting Fields' alternative to the Brady Bill, Lawrence commented: "The Brady bill suffers significantly when people find out as few as five basic points about it." Lawrence's poll even listed purported weaknesses of the Brady Bill, such as inaccuracy of criminal records. Lawrence concluded: "Even though voters initially go along with what appears to be a reasonable concept, they soon discover that the Brady bill doesn't measure up the their expectations."

So listing certain facts about tax exemptions and inheritance involved in marriage equality in Maryland "injects a bias" but speculating about potential problems in gun control regulation is the only way to get an accurate reading of public opinion. Makes you wonder why Lawrence didn't tell poll respondents that marriage equality in Maryland would bring about the Apocalypse.  

In May, a Washington Post poll found that 46 percent of Maryland residents favor same-sex marriage, with 44 percent opposing. Annapolis-based pollster Gonzales Research concluded 51 percent approved.

Given Lawrence's background in anti-equality advocacy, it's no wonder his poll is an outlier.