changing attitudes?

Quite obviously, there are other scatterbrains who know more than I about this. But I find the LATimes most recent poll on attitudes toward gay marriage and relationships quite interesting. (This emerging out of the recent supreme court case). Most Californians do not believe that gay relationships were morally wrong, and  reported valuing  committed relationships, regardless of sexual orientation.  While the majority agreed with an amendment against gay marriage, the majority was slim (a mere 51%). This to me seems to be a pretty big change. Also interesting was the demographic breakdown (graph below).

Looking at the question of same-sex relationships being “morally wrong” – men were less likely to agree than women, and people aged 35-44 were the least likely (even less so than folks 18-34). This is not what I would expected at all. And while folks 65+ were fairly likely to view sex-sex relationships as morally wrong, they  nonetheless felt that as  long as folks were committed to one another, it doesn’t matter (60%). Actually the folks 65+ and 18-34 look about the same.

Friends of mine have told me, “In 15 years this won’t be an issue anymore.” I doubt that. But it strikes me that that is the direction we’re moving in.


  1. Posted May 23, 2008 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Shamus, your feeling is right on. Public opinion on this has changed rapidly over the last two decades. As a matter of fact, my forthcoming book (how happy am I that there is a link there?) examines same-sex marriage from the perspective of lesbian and gay activism. It may seem that this issue was pushed by lesbian and gay activists from the beginning, but it was not. Social movement groups did not get on board any of the legal challenges that individual couples brought forward until it looked like one of them would win, in Hawaii.

    Then, when the Hawaiian legislature wrote new law to exclude same-sex couples from marriage, lesbian and gay activists may well have dropped the (then very unpopular) issue. They could not do that, however, because the issue was quickly taken up by the religious right. A wave of anti-gay initiatives followed, as everyone is aware. The religious right may well have seen this as a slam dunk issue, as public opinion was so strongly against same-sex marriage at the time.

    What neither the religious right nor the lesbian and gay movement foresaw, I argue, was on the one hand the massive mobilization of lesbian and gay people around this issue–new organizations were started, non-activists became activists, etc., and on the other hand the dramatic shift in public opinion on this issue.

    Shifts in public opinion this great are very rare; expect a related post on this issue shortly.


  2. Posted May 23, 2008 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Thanks Tina! The first sentence of my post was in some ways a prod to hear from you… So I look forward to the post (and the book!).


  3. Posted May 23, 2008 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Boy, I can’t wait for that book!


  4. Posted May 23, 2008 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    ditto ap’s comment.


  5. scorrell
    Posted May 23, 2008 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Me too! when will the book be out?


  6. Posted May 23, 2008 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    You all are too kind! I am so excited to report that it will be out this summer, in time for the ASA. Stop by the University of Minnesota Press booth!


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