HRC Encouraged By New Poll That Shows Record Levels Of Acceptance, But Discrimination And Violence Persist

The Human Rights Campaign called the poll, released by

the Kaiser Family Foundation on November 13th, showing increased acceptance of gay, lesbian

and bisexual Americans encouraging, but expressed concern that even in this

improved environment discrimination and violence remain persistent problems.

The data also shows that the American people strongly support federal

legislation to battle hate violence and prohibit discrimination based on

sexual orientation, says HRC.

“The poll is a welcome indication of how incredibly far we have progressed,

but it is also a barometer of how much further we have to go to reach our

goal of full equality,” said HRC Communications Director David M. Smith. “We

are particularly encouraged by the overwhelming public support for federal

legislation to address hate violence and prohibit employment discrimination

and we hope that members of Congress see that ending these injustices are

what their constituents clearly want.”

According to the poll, large majorities of the public support federal

legislation that would address hate violence and ant-gay discrimination with

73 percent of Americans supporting hate crime legislation; 76 percent

supporting federal protection from employment discrimination, and 74 percent

in favor of protection from housing discrimination. Equally large numbers

support extending certain rights and benefits to lesbian and gay domestic

partners, including: inheritance rights, 73 percent; employer-sponsored

health insurance 70 percent; and social security benefits 68 percent.

The poll shows that while gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans feel

more accepted than ever, many have suffered discrimination, threats or even

violence. Seventy-six percent of lesbians, gays and bisexuals believe there

is greater acceptance today. But an alarming 74 percent report that they

have experienced prejudice and discrimination, and 32 percent report that

they have been the target of physical violence. Additionally, 74 percent of

LGB people report being the victims of verbal abuse. Forty-one percent of

believe that there is more violence directed towards them today than a few

years ago.

The survey found that 78 percent of the American people believe that

gay men and lesbians experience at least some prejudice and discrimination –

including more than half, 57 percent, who say “a lot,” and 39 percent who

think there is more violence toward gays and lesbians in this country today

than a few years ago.

More than half, 55 percent of the general public, opposes legally

sanctioned gay and lesbian marriages; while 39 percent support it. This is

up from previous surveys conducted in 1998, where 33 percent were in favor

of marriage and in 1992 when only 27 percent were in favor. The public is

less inclined, 42 percent, to oppose legally sanctioned gay and lesbian

unions or partnerships, and more, 47 percent, support it than oppose such a

policy.

Support on adoption rights for LGB families is split, with 46

percent opposing it and 47 percent in favor. Support for adoption rights for

couples has increased in recent years – from 29 percent in 1994 and 36

percent in 1998. The public’s evolving views on gay and lesbian parenting

are further shown in the fact that 56 percent of the public believes that

gay and lesbian couples can be just as good parents as heterosexual couples.

The future of LGB equality remains bright, according to the poll,

with the a wide majority of 18- to 29-year-olds supporting gay and lesbian

rights. For instance, 68 percent support gay unions or partnerships; 60

support the right to marry and additional 55 percent are in favor of

adoption rights for LGB couples.

Two thirds of the general public believe there is more acceptance of

gays and lesbians today compared to a few years ago, and a majority feel

that greater acceptance is either good for the country, twenty nine percent,

and 44 percent believe that it doesn’t matter one way or the other. In the

workplace, 78 percent of people say they would feel comfortable working with

someone who is openly gay or lesbian. The majority would also allow their

children to attend high school, 71 percent, or elementary school 61 percent,

if the teacher were openly gay or lesbian. And 58 percent would vote for a

gay or lesbian political candidate. Americans, however, are more divided as

to whether they would, 46 percent or would not, 49 percent, attend a church

or synagogue where the minister or rabbi is openly gay or lesbian.

Two thirds of the general public believe that homosexual behavior is

a normal part of some people’s sexuality – 36 percent completely agree and

33 percent somewhat agree. More than a quarter disagree – 20 percent

completely and 8 percent somewhat. However, about half of the general public

believes that homosexual behavior is morally wrong – 38 percent strongly

agree and 13 percent somewhat agree.

Three quarters, 73 percent, of the general public now know someone

who is gay or lesbian, up from 55 percent in 1998. Those who know someone

who is gay are significantly less likely, 47 percent, to believe that

homosexuality is morally wrong compared to those who do not know someone who

is gay, 68 percent.

“This poll shows that the importance coming out has on changing

hearts and minds cannot be overstated,” said HRC National Coming Out Project

Manager Candace Gingrich. “Coming out not only changes the individual’s

life, but has a significant impact on those around them.”

According to the poll, views on homosexuality vary by religious

affiliation and gender. For example, 60 percent of Evangelical Christians

“completely agree” that homosexuality is morally wrong, compared to 31

percent of non-Evangelical Christians and 27 percent of Catholics. Women are

somewhat less likely than men to believe this, 28 percent and 56 percent

respectively.

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