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.