A new survey claims that a majority of Americans favour a range of policies and legal protections for LGBT people.
A new survey conducted by Harris Interactive in the wake of the passage of and protests against California’s Proposition 8 reveals that a majority of Americans favour a broad range of policies and legal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
The Pulse of Equality survey, commissioned by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), shows that majorities of Americans support either marriage or civil unions/domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian couples.
The also favour as gay- and transgender-inclusive hate-crimes laws and non-discrimination laws, and allowing openly gay service members to serve in the armed forces, while a majority opposes laws that would ban adoption by qualified gay and lesbian couples.
According to the survey of 2,008 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, conducted from Nov. 13-17, 2008, Americans support key policy proposals that affect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Among them:
- Three-quarters of U.S. adults (75%) favour either marriage or domestic partnerships/civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. Only about two in 10 (22%) say gay and lesbian couples should have no legal recognition. (Gay and lesbian couples are able to marry in two states, and comprehensive civil union or domestic partnership laws exist in only five others and the District of Columbia.)
- U.S. adults are now about evenly divided on whether they support allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry (47% favour to 49% oppose).
- Almost two-thirds (64%) of U.S. adults favour allowing openly gay military personnel to serve in the armed forces. (The current “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law bans military service by openly gay personnel.)
- About six in 10 (63%) U.S. adults favour expanding hate crime laws to cover gay and transgender people. (Hate crimes laws cover gay and transgender people in 11 states and the District of Columbia, and an additional – 20 states’ laws cover sexual orientation but not gender identity.)
- A slight majority of U.S. adults (51%) favour protecting gay and transgender people under existing laws that prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. (Existing non-discrimination laws cover gay and transgender people in only 12 states and the District of Columbia, and eight other states’ laws cover sexual orientation but not gender identity.)
- Nearly seven out of 10 U.S. adults (69%) oppose laws that would ban qualified gay and lesbian couples from adopting children. (In several states, gay and lesbian couples are banned from adopting.)
“In the Pulse of Equality survey, we observed a positive relationship between knowing a gay or transgender person and one’s attitudes toward them and the policy issues that affect their lives,” said Laura Light, Vice President of Public Relations Research for Harris Interactive.
“Based on other surveys we have conducted on attitudes toward LGBT people and issues, the results of this survey suggest that public sentiment in the U.S. is trending toward greater acceptance of gay- and transgender-related policy issues.”
There were statistically significant differences in support with respect to age, gender, race/ethnicity and religion. People under 65, and especially those 18-34, were more supportive than people over 65.
Women were generally more supportive than men, with women age 18-34 often being more supportive than other segments. Hispanics were more supportive than Whites and African-Americans in showing strong support for allowing openly gay military personnel to serve in the armed forces.
African Americans were more strongly supportive than Whites and Hispanics of expanding existing hate crimes laws to cover gay and transgender people.
Mainline Christians (a category that includes, among other denominations, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians and Episcopalians) and Catholics were more supportive than Evangelical Christians, and Mainline Christians were often among the more supportive segments on a variety of issues.
The survey also revealed that there has been greater acceptance of gay and lesbian Americans over the last five years.
Approximately two in 10 Americans (19%) reported that their feelings toward gay and lesbian people have become more favourable over the past five years, with contributing factors including: knowing someone who is gay or lesbian (79%); the fact that laws have been passed that protect gay and lesbian people (50%); opinions of family or friends (45%) and religious leaders (21%);news coverage of gay and lesbian issues (41%); and seeing gay or lesbian characters on television (34%) and in movies (29%).
Nearly three out of four Americans (73%) personally know or work with a gay or transgender person, and half of those who know or work with someone who is gay or transgender know five or more gay or transgender people.
“The visibility of the past several years, and the intense conversations of the past few weeks, seem to have galvanised a majority of Americans’ support of equality for gay and transgender Americans,” said GLAAD President Neil G. Giuliano.
“While this expression of support is encouraging, particularly after the setbacks we experienced on Election Day, it’s not something we can rest on. There is a lot of work to be done. We must all do what we can to sustain and expand this emerging wave of grassroots activism so that it leads to laws and policies that extend full equality under the law to all Americans – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight.”
Giuliano suggested that one of the crucial issues facing LGBT people is that many Americans aren’t aware of the injustices that they face.
“Majorities of Americans clearly favour equality for gay and transgender people,” Giuliano added, “but we’ve seen that too many still mistakenly believe that the intolerance and injustices we face are things of the past. So it’s more vital than ever that we tell our stories, illustrate the injustices we face, and remind people of the common ground we share.”