Monday, March 03, 2014

Surprising facts that straight people don't know about gay people

It's a good time to be gay in the USA. (Not so good in Uganda or Russia, but that's not my topic today.) A new Public Religion Research Institute survey reports rapidly increasing support for gay marriage among Democrats and independents -- only Republicans hold out against this novelty. Support has reached new highs in several religious and non-religious sectors:
Religiously unaffiliated Americans (73%), white mainline Protestants (62%), white Catholics (58%), and Hispanic Catholics (56%) all favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. A majority (83%) of Jewish Americans also favor legalizing same-sex marriage.
As Harvey Milk told us decades ago, LGBT people coming out in our daily lives has made all the difference:
Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Americans report having a close friend or family member who is gay or lesbian, nearly three times the number (22%) who reported having such a relationship in 1993. Americans who have a close friend or family member who is gay or lesbian are 27 points more likely than those who do not to favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry (63% vs. 36%). This “family and friends” effect is present across all major demographic, religious and political groups.
The survey includes nuanced breakdowns of these general findings.
Click to enlarge.
I found some of the findings about untrue beliefs about gay people and our lives to be quite fascinating. We're clearly the object of a lot of beneficent good will, but also of some major misconceptions. Some examples:
  • Even though most polls since 2012 have shown a majority of Americans favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry, only about one-third (34%) of the public believe that most Americans favor same-sex marriage. Nearly half (49%) of the public incorrectly believe that most Americans oppose same-sex marriage, and roughly 1-in-10 (9%) believe the country is divided on the issue.
  • About 6-in-10 (59%) white mainline Protestants believe their fellow congregants are mostly opposed to same-sex marriage. However, among white mainline Protestants who attend church regularly, only 36% oppose allowing gay and lesbian people to legally marry while a majority (57%) actually favor this policy.
  • Roughly three-quarters (73%) of Catholics believe that most of their fellow congregants are opposed to same-sex marriage. However, Catholics who regularly attend church are in fact divided on the issue (50% favor, 45% oppose).[These folks and the previous lot need to talk more with their fellows in the pews.]
  • Three-quarters (75%) of Americans incorrectly believe it is currently illegal under federal law to fire or refuse to hire someone because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Only 15% of Americans correctly say that such discrimination is currently legal under federal law, while nearly 1-in-10 (9%) offer no opinion.
  • The current survey, using self-identification, finds 5.1% of the adult population identifies as either gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Notably, Americans overestimate the size of the LGBT population by a factor of 4 (20% median estimate).
I guess the need to talk more with each other goes for all of us.

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