Americans becoming more supportive of gay issues

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Two new studies released today to mark National Coming Out Day show that more Americans know someone who is gay and, as a result, are more supportive of LGBT issues.

“As we continue to introduce our lives and relationships to Americans, more are responding in a positive way and being increasingly supportive of full equality under the law,” said Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese.

The first report is a national survey conducted by Harris Interactive, in conjunction with Witeck-Combs Communications, Inc. between Sept. 7-14.

The online poll of 2,932 US adults found that seven out of ten heterosexual adults in the United States say that they know someone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Furthermore, 83 percent of those who self-identify as gay or lesbian consider themselves “out.” In general, when asked if they considered themselves open about their sexual orientation, large majorities of gays and lesbians say they are “out” to their close friends (92 percent) and to their parents (78 percent).

Many gays and lesbians also say they are “out” to other relatives such as grandparents or cousins (68 percent), acquaintances and to casual friends (68 percent) and to co-workers and colleagues (66 percent).

The second report provides even further insight into what living openly as a LGBT Americans mean to the advancement of equal rights. Not only are more Americans becoming familiar with the lives of GLBT people as they become more familiar they are more supportive.

Titled, “‘Coming Out’ and Americans’ Attitudes on Gay Rights,” the second report comes from the Hunter College Centre for Sexuality and Public Policy, and draws upon the first-ever national archive of public opinion surveys about LGBT Americans.

“If seven out of 10 heterosexuals know someone who is LGBT, then many gays and lesbians are making their identity apparent as a natural part of their lives – just like their age, height, hair colour or personality,” said Mark Shields, director of the Human Rights Campaign’s National Coming Out Project.

“For most people, coming out or opening up to someone starts with a conversation. And for those interested in fostering strong, deep relationships with their friends and family, living openly often allows for closer relationships with the people they care about most.”

The report, compiling data from a wide variety of polling finds that, in 2001, having a gay or lesbian family member raised the typical American’s support for gay marriage by 17 percentage points, and it raised the typical American’s support for adoption rights for gay couples by 13 percentage points.

Using data from 2004, the report finds that contact with gays and lesbians is associated with an 13-percentage-point increase in support for some sort of legal recognition of same-sex couples (either marriage or civil unions) among heterosexual Americans who are otherwise typical with respect to characteristics such as age, education and political party. Similarly, personal knowledge of a gay or lesbian person was associated with a 13-point decrease in support for an amendment to the US Constitution that would ban same-sex marriages.

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