Why Talking About Equality Matters

A new study finds that merely talking to someone about LGBT equality makes it more likely that they will change their mind on issues like same-sex marriage. And it’s even more true if the person talking to them is gay themselves, apparently.

Having persuasive face-to-face conversations with someone who supports same-sex marriage can lead opponents to have significant and long-lasting shifts in their views about marriage equality, especially when the person they’re talking to is gay, according to a new study by two political science professors.

Michael J. Lacour of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Donald P. Green of Columbia University surveyed 9,507 Los Angeles County voters who lived in precincts that supported California’s 2008 ban on same-sex marriage five times over the course of two and a half months.

Voters were divided into five randomly assigned groups, with some residents exposed to a gay or straight canvasser advocating for same-sex marriage and others assigned to a gay or straight canvasser discussing the importance of recycling. The fifth group served as a control group to which no canvasser was assigned.

The research found that individuals who were confronted with marriage equality conversations from a canvasser who identified himself or herself as gay experienced the most powerful and long-lasting attitude shifts in favor of same-sex marriage.

I had a conversation with one of my older brothers the other day and he told me how he changed his mind about gay rights. He said that he had always been a bit homophobic until he got into a conversation with a gay man that he knew who asked him a simple question: Would you like someone to tell you what to do with another consenting adult in your bedroom, or to discriminate against you based on what you do? That was a big epiphany for him, the moment he realized that what gay people wanted was the privacy and equal rights that he already took for granted.

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  • Seth

    It completely boggles my mind that marriage equality is even a controversy down there. It’s been the law of the land everywhere in Canada for going on ten years, now; a whole generation of gay people have come of age in this country under the auspices of marriage equality. Statistically zero people have a problem with it here, even in the most conservative provinces. What the hell is wrong with you Yankees?

  • Uncle Ebeneezer

    This is probably why opponents of equality never want to discuss the issue (or racism, sexism etc.) They know that as the dialogue continues, more and more people start to see the light and move towards a reasonable acceptance of equality as a goal. It’s why they so passionately accuse anyone who broaches the topic of being obsessed with it or being Gay Mafia/Feminazi/PlayingTheRace card etc.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1159674804 robertbaden

    Seth,

    Why did Canada have to pass a law 10 years ago?

  • Chiroptera

    Seth, #1: What the hell is wrong with you Yankees?

    Some of us Yankess are wondering the same thing.

  • bethy

    I had a lively debate with a young man outside parliament last week who held a sign stating that Wellington was about to be destroyed (he wouldn’t say when, but it will be VERY SOON!) like Sodom and Gomorrah unless the government bans same sex marriage. In New Zealand people like this guy are (fortunately) a rare species so I couldn’t pass up the chance to have a bit of fun. He also had a sign quoting Leviticus so I scolded him for wearing different textiles and then told him he should stone me to death because I’m married to another woman. He wasn’t so keen on the stoning and seemed genuinely embarrassed to be holding that sign in front of a gay person.

  • dmcclean

    Having persuasive face-to-face conversations with someone who supports same-sex marriage can lead opponents to have significant and long-lasting shifts in their views about marriage equality, especially when the person they’re talking to is gay, [according to a new study by two political science professors.]

    Surely the part in brackets could be replaced with “according to the definition of ‘persuasive'”?

  • vmanis1

    Canada had to pass a law because there were all sorts of technical amendments that needed to be made to various parts of legislation. This was after the then-Liberal government referred the matter to the Supreme Court, which said that the feds could, but did not have to, act in the matter. (The Canadian courts were busy invalidating SSM bans at the provincial level, if the federal law had not been passed, marriage equality would have been universal in Canada, but with various anomalies because of necessary consequential changes to other laws, resulting in a torrent of lawsuits.)

    As it was, there was a bug that prevented non-residents of Canada from divorcing here if they had been married here. That bug has either been fixed or is about to be fixed, I have lost track of it.

    On the subject of New Zealand, many people have seen this video, in which Maurice Williamson, a Member of Parliament from the center-right National Party, strongly supports their marriage equality bill. His comments on the `gay onslaught’ that was supposedly coming down the Pakuranga Highway, according to one homophobe, and the bill causing a national drought, according to another, are hilarious. It’s proof that not all conservatives are bigots. The world needs more politicians like Mr Williamson.

  • vmanis1

    Clarification: `their marriage equality bill’ was ambiguous in the previous comment; it could be misinterpreted as `the National Party’s marriage equality bill’. The New Zealand marriage equality bill was introduced by a Labour MP, and was strongly supported by the Labour Party, the Greens, the Maori MPs, and the minor parties. Almost but not quite a majority of the National Party supported it (including Mr Williamson, one assumes); the majority of the National Party and the right-wing NZ First party opposed it.

    (Source: Wikipedia article on Same-Sex Marriage in New Zealand)

  • bethy

    Maurice is a kiwi conservative but I’m pretty sure he’d be considered a liberal in ‘merica.

  • valhar2000

    What did it for me was encountering american anti-gay bigots on skeptical websites. While I did think gays were “icky” at the time, I found the views of american conservatives repugnant, so I picked a side, and I’m still on it.

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    “What the hell is wrong with you Yankees?”

    Religion, ick factor–take your pick.

    I grew up in a “gueer bashing”, “jew baiting”, “nigger knocking’, hippie hatin’ and liberal loathing environment. Then I worked with gays, Jews, blacks, flaming liberals and patchouli smellin’, dope smokin’ flower children and found them all to be about the same mix of “types” that I ran into in my white, hetero, catholic neighborhood.

    Truth is, I spent plenty of time talking to gays who were fearful of exposure but I found that most of them, once they knew I didn’t give a shit about their being gay decided to spare me from teh GAYonlsaught of buttsecks* that all of my peers were scared/titillated about!

    * Otoh, I may have been just as unattractive to them as I was to most women!

  • abb3w

    @1 Seth

    What the hell is wrong with you Yankees?

    The remnants of the Confederacy.

  • dogmeat

    What the hell is wrong with you Yankees?

    Actually, the majority of us support marriage equality and the polls show that the majority of those who do support marriage equality live in the states most commonly referred to as “yankee” states (IE those that fought on the side of the Union during the civil war). Staunchest opposition to marriage equality tends to be in the states that were parts of the Confederacy during that same conflict.

    Canada had to pass a law because there were all sorts of technical amendments that needed to be made to various parts of legislation.

    That’s actually a rather weak argument. If it was such a non-issue as presented @1, then the basic fundamental right would already have been recognized. The fact that it had to go through the courts and then the legislature shows rather clearly that it wasn’t a “non-issue.” Within a few more years it will be a non-issue in the US and people will question why it was ever an issue (much like inter-racial marriage). We’ll actually get to the point where nutjobs like Beck will claim that conservatives were always in favor of marriage equality and liberals were the ones blocking it. We just aren’t there yet.

  • vmanis1

    No, the point was that the Canadian marriage equality bill just cleaned up some legal issues that would have otherwise have resulted in wasteful lawsuits. By the time the law was passed, the majority opinion in canada was such that there was no doubt of its passage.

    Canada is not the U.S. Our attitudes are actually not that different from yours, but our legislatures aren’t full of bigoted idiots who want to stand in the way of history.

  • Nemo

    So basically another study of people who don’t think at all, until forced to (for certain low values of “forced”, which they somehow nevertheless manage to avoid until then). I’m sorry, I know I should see this as good news — how easily their bigotry is blown away — but it just makes me depressed at all the deep, widespread stupidity. Once again.

  • http://onhandcomments.blogspot.com/ left0ver1under

    Canada and many other countries predate the US in legalizing or decriminalizing homosexuality, gays in the military and then legal marriage. This seems to be a natural progression, and the US is finally getting around to the last.

    The biggest difference is that rightwing extremism was far more accepted in the US while a democracy than in other countries. The National Front parties in England and France and Canada’s Reforrm party were never as far right as the teabaggers or their ancestors in the KKk.