Coming out and digging in

Public opinion data provides strong support for the coming out strategy that has been at the core of gay and lesbian activism for decades.

The graph on the left (right), where the lines cross, is a familiar one for anyone following the gay and lesbian movement.  More recent polls show support for same sex marriage as high as 58 percent–although, as marriage equality opponents note, turnout matters a great deal.

The generational break-down, at the right of the figure, should also be fairly familiar.  Younger people are far more likely to support same sex marriage.  This bodes well for the gay and lesbian movement over time.  Both same sex marriage supporters and opponents will be getting older over time; more of the opponents will, uh, no longer be engaged in the political debate.

But it’s not just generational replacement.

Pew also asked people who have changed their minds why they did so.  Although you should always take such results with more than a grain of salt, the most common explanation for shifting to support marriage equality was knowing a gay person.

When more people come out as gay or lesbian, or as the friend or relative of someone gay or lesbian, fewer people will be able to avoid knowing a gay person.

A little coda: popular culture matters here.  American television viewers know Ellen DeGeneres or those sweet snarky fellows on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.  The friendly folks on television may spend more time in your living room, sort of, than any of your neighbors.

When GAY seems less odd, it’s increasingly difficult to justify discrimination.

About David S. Meyer

Author and professor of Sociology and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine
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3 Responses to Coming out and digging in

  1. SimplySage says:

    I believe this issue encompasses two divergent entities which muddle the whole debate on this issue. First, the moral issue. I personally believe homosexuality to be morally and naturally wrong. For sake of brevity I will omit all the supporting reasons for this conclusion. Once again, my personal belief. The second issue, however, is what I believe to be the crux of the matter. And that concerns personal liberty, free will, and personal choice. If we would but keep these discussions separate perhaps we could deal more with what’s at stake.
    If two people of the same sex decide they want to be committed lifelong partners, they should be allowed to do so in a legal way.
    But why not call it something besides “marriage”? Let “marriage” define the lifelong relationship between a man and a woman. Call the same sex marriage something else. For the same of simplicity why not call it “civil union”? Let people choose what term to define it. Commit yourself to a rock, a pet, whatever. But let marriage be between man and woman.
    For the record, just because I believe it is morally wrong, don’t label me a homophobe. I have many friends, including gay people, whose lifestyle I disagree with from a moral standpoint. But it doesn’t mean I lack respect and love for the individual. I treat them with dignity. Disagreement does not equal judgement or hate. My friends and I agree to disagree and enjoy what we share in common–life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

    • I appreciate your willingness to make a distinction between public policy and your personal values, a tough separation to make. I agree that disagreement doesn’t necessarily equate with hate.
      On marriage: State governments have long been in the marriage business, and the blur between the government and religion is unavoidable when clergy can perform civil marriages. I’m happy to be in a civil marriage, performed by a justice of the peace in accord with the laws of Massachusetts many years ago. We did not have to seek the approval of any religious authorities to get married. That marriage affects the way the federal government treats me; at this time of year, taxation is foremost in my mind. I’ve not been able to understand how granting same sex couples access to the same civil marriage threatens my relationship in any way. (obviously, churches can take their own positions on what makes a couple eligible for marriage in that church.) If, however, government called all marriages not approved by some set of religions something else, well, then it would be taking something away from me.

  2. Pingback: Coming out in the immigration debate | Politics Outdoors

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