Press

Majority Of Americans Support Gay And Lesbian Rights; Task Force Releases Groundbreaking Public Opinion Report

Date: 
May 29, 1998

A growing majority of Americans support gay and lesbian equality, according to a new report released by the National Gay and Lesbian Task (NGLTF) Policy Institute. From Wrongs to Rights: Public Opinion of Gay and Lesbian Americans Moves Toward Equality is the most comprehensive analysis of trends in public opinion about gay men and lesbians during the past twenty years. The report demonstrates overwhelming support for non-discrimination in housing and employment, as well as spousal benefits for same-sex couples. It also shows increasing support on issues such as same-sex marriage and adoption.

"In its opposition to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender equality, it is the right wing that is out of step with mainstream America," stated Kerry Lobel, NGLTF executive director. "This report empirically and objectively proves that while the voice of the anti-gay right wing may be loud in its opposition to equal rights, its claim to majority public opinion is unjustified."

Among other facts, From Wrongs to Rights shows that strong majorities of Americans now support equality in employment (84 percent); housing (81 percent); inheritance rights (62 percent) and social security benefits (57 percent) for same-sex couples; and gays in the military (66 percent). In addition, disapproval of same-sex relationships dropped a substantial 19 points from a peak of 75 percent in 1987 to 56 percent in 1996. The report also shows the percentage of people opposed to same-sex marriage (and those opposed to adoption by gay and lesbian couples) to be declining.

"These findings confirm that three decades of struggle for gay and lesbian equality has succeeded in winning greater understanding and significant change in public attitudes," said Urvashi Vaid, NGLTF Policy Institute director. "This report proves that over time and in dramatic fashion, the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender movement is winning the battle of public opinion on civil rights issues. Our effort to reach the hearts and minds of the American people by being open and honest about our lives holds the key to our success," added Vaid.

From Wrongs to Rights also demonstrates the paradoxical nature of public support, showing that despite the significant gains in positive attitudes regarding legal equality, gay men and lesbians remain unpopular. Despite the persistence of anti-gay sentiment, however, the report shows that the public's censure of gay and lesbian relations is declining over time.

"In this report, the continuing paradox of the gay and lesbian experience is laid out before us. Our gains in some ways have been as great as the resistance we still face," said Vaid. "The dislike and disapproval we continue to face should serve as a call to all supporters of gay equality to redouble our efforts to educate mainstream America about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people's experiences and lives."

From Wrongs to Rights is published by the Policy Institute of NGLTF and authored by Alan Yang, doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science at Columbia University. An introduction is provided by Dr. Kenneth Sherrill, Chairman of the Political Science Department at Hunter College, City University of New York. The report examines public opinion polls over the last two decades that measured attitudes toward gay and lesbian people and equal rights issues. The author reviewed only the most credible polls: those that measured opinion among systematically selected and representative samples of the U.S. adult population as a whole.

For a copy of the report or to schedule an interview with Urvashi Vaid and Alan Yang, contact Betsy Gressler, deputy political director, at (202) 332-6483 ext. 3306 or by pager at (800) 757-6476. The report is also available from NGLTF1s web site at http://www.ngltf.org/downloads/yang.pdf.

An Executive Summary of From Wrongs to Right is available at http://www.ngltf.org/press/yangsumm.html

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.