They’ve Already Lost — And They Know It

A new survey done by the Pew Research Center finds that Americans of all religious and political stripes now believe that legal recognition for same-sex marriages is inevitable in this country. As I’ve been saying all along, they’ve already lost but they don’t know it. Now they do.

As support for gay marriage continues to increase, nearly three-quarters of Americans – 72% – say that legal recognition of same-sex marriage is “inevitable.” This includes 85% of gay marriage supporters, as well as 59% of its opponents…

Republicans (73%) are as likely as Democrats (72%) or independents (74%) to view legal recognition for gay marriage as inevitable. Just 31% of Republicans favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, compared with majorities of Democrats (59%) and independents (58%).

Similarly, people 65 and older are 30 points more likely to view legal recognition of same-sex marriage as inevitable than to favor it (69% vs. 39%). Among those younger than 30, about as many see legal same-sex marriage as inevitable as support gay marriage (69%, 65%).

Just 22% of white evangelical Protestants favor same-sex marriage, but about three times that percentage (70%) thinks legal recognition for gay marriage is inevitable.

And here’s what is driving the change in support for equality:

At the same time, more people today have gay or lesbian acquaintances, which is associated with acceptance of homosexuality and support for gay marriage. Nearly nine-in-ten Americans (87%) personally know someone who is gay or lesbian (up from 61% in 1993). About half (49%) say a close family member or one of their closest friends is gay or lesbian. About a quarter (23%) say they know a lot of people who are gay or lesbian, and 31% know a gay or lesbian person who is raising children. The link between these experiences and attitudes about homosexuality is strong. For example, roughly two-thirds (68%) of those who know a lot of people who are gay or lesbian favor gay marriage, compared with just 32% of those who don’t know anyone.

Part of this is a matter of who is more likely to have many gay acquaintances: the young, city dwellers, women, and the less religious, for example. But even taking these factors into account, the relationship between personal experiences and acceptance of homosexuality is a strong one.

That’s why coming out of the closet is such an important act for the LGBT community. Bigotry is much easier to maintain in ignorance, when one can oppose the evil gay people in their head. Once they realize that they’ve known gay people all along, the abstraction is replaced with a real person. The question becomes not whether gay people should be treated equally, but whether John or Susan should be treated equally.

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  • raven

    Whose next up on the To Hate list?

    They have to hate some group or their religion dies. Besides which, then they have nothing to say or complain about.

    I’m guessing atheists and Moslems.

    But no hated group ever goes completely away. They will still be hating on gays, Jews, nonxians, scientists, women, Democrats, normal people, college students, nowhites, and pagans.

  • marcus

    Oh great! After marriage equality becomes the law of the land we can expect another 100 years of meaningless idiotic and frutless attempts by conservatives to roll back civil/human rights for gay people.

  • erichoug

    I was thinking about this over the weekend as I heard this same news on NPR. I think that what they are really fighting for is to maintain the societal prejudice and low grade bigotry that goes on with all anti-equality/ anti-civil rights movements.

    If the local community is willing to tolerate and allow anti-gay bigotry on a day to day basis, then there probably isn’t a lot you can do about it. Hell it took the National Guard to integrate several large public institutions at gun point.

    What the bigots are really fighting for is to self enforce their own and others in their peer group’s prejudice in the hopes that doing so will largely freeze out gay people and either keep them in the closet or at least shut them up. Not a lot of people want to deal with open day to day hostility.

    Now more than ever I think that gay people need to be out and open and the people that support full equality for everyone need to be vocal critics of the bigots

    Oh, and please make sure you let them know that they don’t love gay people, they aren’t fighting for the “Traditional” definition of marriage. Make them understand that you know they are nothing but bigots, plain and simple.

  • Artor

    As an ignorant adolescent, growing up in Redneckistan, I had learned the default homophobia that is part & parcel of the local culture. “fag” was my word for anyone I don’t like, for whatever reason, regardless of their sexuality. It wasn’t until I mouthed off in front of my sister, (whom I adored and looked up to) that she explained that many of her friends, who treated me well when visiting and were very likeable & cool, were gay, and that she herself was bisexual. It was an eye-opener, and required that I change my worldview and vocabulary drastically.

  • cptdoom

    The downside of this growing acceptance may be the relatively high rate of violence against LGBT citizens, particularly gay men and trans women. There was an anti-gay murder in Paris last week (although according to some reports the victim was a straight ally, not gay himself), NYC has seen a doubling of reported hate crimes against gays in that city, and here in DC we have seen a higher rate of violence, particularly against trans women – there was even a protest at the French Open finals yesterday. As the legal routes for bigotry start to close, it is sad but not surprising that there may be an increase in violent attacks as the bigots lash out in the only way they have left.

    On the plus side, DC pride was last weekend and if there is anything that shows we have made enormous progress, it’s that both the FBI and CIA were there recruiting. Until Clinton came to office in 1993, being gay was an automatic disqualification for secret clearances, now we’re seen as a good population to find spy material (probably because we’re less likely to have kids). The DC pride organization also invited some special guests from Maine – one of the families that was the focus of a pro-marriage ad in the Maine equality fight last year. The family is headed by a veteran in his 80s, and in the ad he expressed his desire to see his lesbian granddaughter marry her partner, just like his straight grandchildren had been able to marry their loves. If you think it’s hard to discriminate against your friends, it’s even harder to tell an old man he can’t see his granddaughter get married before he dies.

  • Synfandel

    Nearly nine-in-ten Americans (87%) personally know someone who is gay or lesbian

    This is simply wrong. It’s highly likely that more than 99% of Americans personally know someone who is gay or lesbian. They just don’t know that they personally know someone who is gay or lesbian, because the gay or lesbian individuals that they know either are closeted or simply don’t make a public point of it. Gays and lesbians constitute approximately five percent of the U.S. population. Know 20 people? Then you probably know someone who is gay or lesbian.

  • Abdul Alhazred

    You mean ‘inevitable’ before Jesus returns?


  • John Pieret

    The Talibangelicals actually recognize reality when it gob-smacks them? I think this must be a first.

  • Jasper of Maine

    The question becomes not whether gay people should be treated equally, but whether John or Susan should be treated equally.

    This is a great way of framing it.

    It occurs to me, and this may not be a revelation to anyone else, but the entire “hate the sin, love the sinner” thing may be a direct attempt to thwart this particular phenomenon… basically by saying, “sure, love these people”, but try to disassociate/compartmentalize that from holy law.

  • Sastra

    raven #1 wrote:

    Whose next up on the To Hate list?… I’m guessing atheists and Moslems.

    I’m guessing atheists. Strategically, they’ll gain many more allies (even the liberal religions are uncomfortable with outright rejection of faith) and the existence of God is critical to Christianity in a way that ‘traditional marriage’ isn’t. With more and more atheists coming out and the concept being mainstreamed, they’ve got much more to lose if their kids begin to think it’s no big deal to not believe in God.

  • raven

    I’m guessing atheists. Strategically, they’ll gain many more allies (even the liberal religions are uncomfortable with outright rejection of faith) and the existence of God is critical to Christianity…

    You might be right.

    The BSA just allowed in gay scouts.

    They still don’t allow in atheist or agnostic scouts, a much larger demographic. It isn’t even on the horizon.

    So yeah, we are higher on the To Hate list than gays. I can’t think of any group who is higher. Maybe the satanists but there are virtually no real satanists. LaVey’s group are atheistic.

  • doublereed

    @6 Synfandel

    When I calculated knowing 20 people with 1/20 with a person being LGBT I got about a 64% chance of knowing a LGBT person. That’s not that unlikely…

    1 – (1 – 1/20)^20 = ~64%

    But of course, most people know way more than 20 people. Using the Dunbar number of 150, we get about a 99.95% likelihood of knowing someone who is LGBT, or about a 1:2000 chance that you don’t know someone who is LGBT.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Harvey Milk:

    We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I’m going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out. Come out to your parents, your relatives.

  • slc1

    To the Israel bashers on this blog (I’m looking at you Marcus Ranum and Raging Bee), here’s a story about the gay pride march in Tel Aviv. I’m sure that they will provide articles describing the gay pride marches in Tehran, Amman, Beirut, and Cairo. Oh wait …

  • jws1

    @slc1: Yawn.

  • stubby

    I didn’t expect the shift in favor of gay marriage to happen so fast. Here’s a bit about religion from Gallup

    June 3, 2013

    Frank Newport, Gallup Editor-in-Chief, reveals that that 75% in the U.S. say it would be positive for society if more Americans were religious, but 77% believe religion is losing its influence on American life.

  • Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    To the Israel bashers on this blog (I’m looking at you Marcus Ranum and Raging Bee), here’s a story about the gay pride march in Tel Aviv.

    Israelis who do good things do deserve to be praised for it. Even if they’re pretty basic human decency kind of things, I guess. 😛

  • dingojack

    For those unfamiliar with SLC’s term ‘Israel bashers’, by that he means anyone who is not a mere polyp on Israel’s duodenal sphincter (unlike himself).



    SLC – I hear that Blondie got lots of nice doggie treats, so Herr Hitler is totally above any kind of criticism.


  • slc1

    Re dingo the bingo @ #18

    I notice that dingo has failed to comment on the lack of gay pride marches in Muslim cities. If anyone were so foolish as to attempt to organize such a march in, say Tehran, he/she would fined themselves in deep doo doo in a hurry.

  • slc1

    Re jws1 @ #15

    Putative gay rights marchers in Tehran aren’t yawning.

  • dingojack

    I notice that SLC hasn’t commented on doggie treats for Blondie therefore that’s an admission of his hard-on for Hitler? @@

    Give it up SLC, no-one is the least bit interested in such idiotically defective ‘arguments’.

    Back to the issue at hand.

    I wonder how many of those that believe marriage equality is inevitable but wrong, are likely to become radicalised into action? Five percent, ten percent, more? Perhaps the FBI should be ready for an (further) upswing in anti-LGBT violence. It seems from history it’s gonna get worse, before they overreach and it gets better. :(


  • dingojack

    Or perhaps the tipping point has already been reached and the anti-marriage equality movement is on the downward slope to irrelevance? Any thoughts?


  • Tony! The Virtual Queer Shoop

    Marcus @2:

    That’s certainly possible.

    I hope that as marginalized people become accepted and make strides in equality, along the way, they will start to become aware of other minority groups, see their struggles and recognize that the fight for equality of one group benefits all.

    That’s one of the benefits I see in the Deep Rifts in the atheist community. There are people who see the struggles of atheists and also see the struggles of queers and women and those with mental or physical disabilities and they see the common ground. As minority group after minority group makes strides for equality, more momentum can be made. I would love for queers and feminists to unite by recognizing their common ground as our society fights the next battle for equality. I suspect that may be a fight for trans* equality or for other ethnic minorities (or both).

  • Tony! The Virtual Queer Shoop


    I suspect you just weren’t aware of the high rates of violence against queers in the past. Such violence may be more visible now, but I doubt it is any greater than 20 or 30 years ago.



    What are you on about?

    The OP is talking about the advancement and acceptance of gay rights in the US and somehow you think bringing Muslim cities into the discussion is relevant?

  • D. C. Sessions

    Or perhaps the tipping point has already been reached and the anti-marriage equality movement is on the downward slope to irrelevance? Any thoughts?

    That was the point of quoting Milk: it’s now “safe” enough (in many different ways) to come out that more people come out, and the more who come out the more accepted (and safer) it becomes. I really don’t see that trend reversing.

  • timberwoof

    There are been a few calculations about how many gay people one is likely to know. But that’s not important: it’s how many gay people you know you know.

    At a street corner someone told me to beware of gay people—they’re everywhere! I said to him, “Yes, we are.” He had been talking to someone gay; he just didn’t know it.