Shows Backlash on Gay Issues
July 29, 2003
1000 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22229
By Susan Page, USA Today
WASHINGTON—Americans have become significantly less
accepting of homosexuality since a Supreme Court decision that was hailed as
clearing the way for new gay civil rights, a USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll has
After several years of growing public tolerance, the survey shows a return
to a level of more traditional attitudes that was last seen in the mid-1990s.
Asked whether homosexual relations between consenting adults should be
legal, 48% said yes, and 46% said no—within the poll’s margin of error of
3 percentage points. In early May, legal relations were endorsed 60%-35%.
Before this month, support hadn’t been that low since 1996.
The change in public attitudes occurs as the role of gay people has been in
the news. In recent weeks, the Supreme Court struck down a Texas anti-sodomy
law, a Canadian court allowed gay couples to marry in Ontario and Wal-Mart,
the USA’s largest private employer, expanded anti-discrimination protection
to gay workers.
Conservative social activists see a backlash to those developments and the
growing visibility of gay characters in entertainment, including such TV shows
as Will & Grace and Bravo’s new dating show, Boy Meets Boy. “The more
that the movement demands the endorsement of the law and the culture, the more
resistance there will be,” says Gary Bauer, president of a group called
Bauer, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, says
that sentiment will make it harder for elected officials to avoid taking
positions on such questions as a proposed constitutional amendment that would
bar marriage of gay couples.
Advocates for gay men and lesbians said the findings were a disappointment.
“What we have is a confluence of events, some foreseen and some
unforeseen,” says David Smith, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign.
“Clearly, the debate and the discussion have had an effect.” But over
time, he says, “I think the country always ends up on the side of fairness,
and I think they will here, too.”
Those making the biggest shifts in attitude included respondents who said
they attended church almost every week. On the question of whether homosexual
relations between consenting adults should be legal, support fell from 61% in
two May polls to 49% in two July polls. Among African-Americans, support fell
from 58% to 36%.
The survey also found growing opposition to state-recognized civil unions
that would give gay couples some of the legal rights of married heterosexual
couples. They were opposed 57%-40%, the highest level of opposition since the
question was first asked in 2000. In May, the findings were tied at 49%-49%.
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