Gay Americans report more acceptance, room for progress: survey

Same-sex weddings in Rhode Island will be permitted starting Aug. 1, 2013. (Google Images)
 (Google Images)

The vast majority of U.S. lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults say society has become more accepting of them in the past decade, according to a poll billed as the first-ever major survey of its kind in America.

However, although 92 percent of those asked saw progress, many said bias remained common, according to the Pew Research Center’s report released on Thursday.

Two in 10 people said they have been treated unfairly by an employer because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and three in 10 say they have been physically attacked or threatened. While six in 10 said there was some acceptance, two in 10 said there was a lot of social acceptance. Two in 10 said there was “no acceptance.”

“For LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people, this is the best of times, but that doesn’t mean these are easy times or that their lives are uncomplicated,” said Paul Taylor, a co-author of the report and executive vice president of Pew.

The survey comes at a time when American society is experiencing a sea change in attitudes.

A Pew survey released last week found that over half of Americans favor giving gays and lesbians the right to marry, while nearly three-quarters said legal recognition of gay marriage is “inevitable.”

Twelve states and Washington, D.C., have legalized same-sex marriage, including six since last fall. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that restricted federal recognition of marriage to heterosexual couples, as well as a challenge to a 2008 California referendum that banned gay marriage in the state.

In 2011, President Barack Obama declared gays and lesbians would be able to serve openly in the military. The following year, he became the first sitting president to endorse same-sex marriage.

JOBS A MAJOR PRIORITY

Survey respondents were overwhelmingly supportive of extending marriage rights to same-sex couples, but some thought this had taken the focus away from other important issues.

Asked what issue should be a top policy priority, 57 percent named equal employment rights, while 53 percent said marriage.

Age 10 was the median age at which gay men first felt they might be something other than straight, while for lesbians and bisexuals, that came at age 13, the survey found.

Fifty-six percent said they discussed their sexual orientation or gender identity with their mother, while just 39 percent did so with their father. Most said the experience was difficult, but relatively few said it damaged their relationship.

Politically, eight in 10 respondents said they were Democrats or Democrat-leaning.

When asked whether the best way to achieve equality was by becoming part of mainstream culture or keeping a distinct culture, respondents were divided. Most – 56 percent – said it was important to maintain LGBT bars and neighborhoods, while 41 percent said this would become less important with time.

Gay men were most likely to say that distinctive venues should be maintained, with 68 percent taking that position.

The nationwide survey of 1,197 LGBT adults was administered online, a survey method that researchers say tends to produce more honest responses to sensitive questions. Bisexuals made up 40 percent of respondents, followed by gay men at 36 percent, lesbian women at 19 percent and transgender adults at 5 percent. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

Pew said that the report did not attempt to estimate the share of the U.S. population that is LGBT.

 


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