Sunday, June 09, 2013

Change creates inevitability

Lately, there’s been a lot of further evidence about how much American society has moved toward acceptance of LGBT people, and all of it explains why marriage equality is an idea whose time has come. The changes have been remarkable—and broad.

The latest Pew Research report found that opponents and proponents alike realise that marriage equality is inevitable. This explains why our adversaries have been so, um, determined lately to make people believe that inevitability is a “lie”: They realised that since even their supporters know that marriage equality is inevitable, future donations will dry up.

But what’s behind that realisation? What’s made this both an inevitability and something that people recognise as such?

Turns out, there was a lot of other interesting stuff in that Pew report. For example, they looked at people’s answers to whether or not homosexuality should be accepted by society or discouraged by society. In 2003, a bare plurality—47%—thought it should be accepted (against 45% who thought it should be “discouraged”). A decade later, supporters outnumber opponents by two to one: 60% say homosexuality should be accepted by society, and a mere 31% still say it should be “discouraged”.

A couple weeks before the Pew research was released, Gallup released the results from its annual “Values and Beliefs” survey. They found that 59% of Americans felt that gay and lesbian relationships are morally acceptable, up from only 40% in 2001. This means that the rates of acceptance and disapproval have swapped since 2001.

These changes in attitude are remarkable, and since they get at people’s overall attitudes, they explain why marriage equality is advancing. However, both organisations provided even more information that fills out the picture.

Gallup found that 47% of Americans believe that people are born LGBT, with 33% of them thinking it’s “upbringing and environment”. Just two years ago, it was environment slightly ahead of birth, 42% to 40%.

Similar changes in attitudes can also be seen in data from Pew. They said that ten years ago, 60% would be “Very/Somewhat upset” if their child told them they were gay, but today 55% say they would NOT be upset. Even the “very upset” percentage dropped from 33% to 19%.

And yet, many people have religious conflicts: Today, Pew’s questions on whether homosexual behaviour is a “sin” have the yes and no tied at 45% each. That’s down significantly from a decade ago, when 55% said it was a sin and 33% said it wasn’t. That, too, is clearly moving in a more tolerant direction. This is significant because even now, 56% say that same-gender marriage would go against their religious beliefs, as opposed to 41% who say it wouldn’t (in 2003, that was 62% and 33%, respectively).

Our adversaries see in this a justification for them to double-down on religious rhetoric, assuming that this is the one area in which they might be able to win back supporters. They clearly don’t understand what’s really going on.

In reporting on Americans’ pessimistic views on morality in general, Gallup noted:
“Last year, Gallup asked Americans to give their views on the most important problem with the state of moral values. Americans were more likely to cite a lack of respect or tolerance for other people than divisive political and social issues such as abortion or same-sex marriage. So their sour outlook on U.S. values may have more to do with basic matters of civility than with the more controversial moral issues that currently divide Americans.”
With their self-expressed tolerance for LGBT people in general, and marriage equality specifically, it’s clear that mainstream Americans’ definition of “morality” is quite different from the views of religious political activists on the far right. This is what the far right doesn’t understand: They’re using the same words, but they have completely different meanings, leading them to fail at connecting even with religious people.

Still, the most anti-gay attitudes in all these studies were held by those who were older, more conservative, more religious and least educated. That hasn’t changed in a very long time—and yet, it IS changing.

Older Americans’ (described as 55+) support for “gay or lesbian relations” is up 25% since 2001, according to Gallup. A bare majority—51%—find that such relations are morally acceptable. They still have the smallest percentage of support, but it is a majority, and it will continue to grow.

Part of the reason for the changes is demographics: Younger people (18-34) are more tolerant and accepting than any other age segment, but the next oldest age band (35-54) is more accepting than the oldest. As these more tolerant types age, they increase majorities in each older age group.

As many studies have shown, people are more tolerant and accepting of LGBT people when they actually know someone who is LGBT—particularly if that person is a family member or close friend. The increasing openness of society will only accelerate these shifts in attitude. This is what will prevent society from slipping backwards: As people continue to increasingly embrace the LGBT people in their own families, they’ll defend their family members against any who would try to oppress them.

So, what all of this means is this: Things really are moving forward more quickly, and it’s happening because of changes in societal attitudes, brought about, in part, by generational change. This is a one-way journey because of those attitude changes: People will defend their families.

It is this fundamental societal change that makes marriage equality inevitable. And we’re all the better for it.

1 comment:

rogerogreen said...

I'm not convinced that the numbers are true. Probably for LG people. B I have my doubts. and T? No way. I've heard a number of gay-friendly folks with real problems/lack of understanding of transgendered people, thinking that maybe they are just cross-dressers or something.