Analysis: US gay men and the fight for same-sex marriage

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The proportion of American gay men calling for the right to marry their partners in a church is as low as 36 per cent, Community Marketing Inc.’s Gay Consumer Index has revealed.

The study, which interviewed 12,044 gay men across America, claims to be the largest and most comprehensive of its kind. Survey participants were solicited through over 75 widely distributed internet and print publications.

When asked if political leaders should “continue the fight for gay and lesbian marriage equality” only 36 per cent believed it should be a priority.

The figure will cause concern in America’s gay rights community, which has long campaigned for gay couples to be given the same recognition as heterosexual couples – both legally and spiritually.

But attempts by activists to skip civil-union type legislation in favour of a more far-reaching marriage agenda have been criticised by some observers.

Some within the community believe the activists should aim for ‘same-sex unions’ in a bid to secure gay couples all important rights over inheritance and adoption without galvanising the religious lobby.

It is possible the survey reflects the adoption of this position among a substantial portion of the gay community, but there are no details of how the questions were asked, and what other options were available.

Alternately, the findings may represent a lack of hope of ever gaining such equal rights following the rampant success of many anti-gay campaigns.

At present 27 American states have added a ‘defence of marriage’ amendment to their constitution. Such amendments generally restrict marriage to a union of man and woman.

If this is the reason, respondents should have more hope. President Bush was narrowly prevented from adding just such an amendment to the American constitution due to Congressional opposition.

Had he succeeded, it would have been the first time anyone had altered the constitution to make it more restrictive rather than more open.

The survey does reveal a high level of solidarity in the gay and lesbian community and shows many in the community is committed to ensuring the private sector realises the full extent of their financial and social power.

10,344 lesbians took part in the survey.

Ninty-two per cent of lesbian respondents say they would refuse to do business with a company that did not treat its gay and lesbian employees properly, and 91 per cent that their purchasing decision are influenced by corporate sponsorship of LGBT events and charities.

Seventy-seven per cent of gays and 68 per cent of lesbians believe LGBT buying power and its recognition by corporations has worked to advance the issues faced by the gay community.

Political engagement also remained high. Eighty-four per cent of gay men voted in the November 2006 mid-term election, and 78 per cent of lesbians.

A massive 92 per cent of gays voted in the 2004 Presidential election, as did 91 per cent of lesbians – both figures far above the national average.

The high turnout from the LGBT community probably reflects some of President Bush’s more hard-line rhetoric in the campaign, designed in part to convince his Evangelical support base to go to the polling stations.

The general outlook across the Atlantic remains pessimistic, however.

Seventy-three per cent of both lesbians and gays believe homosexuality will remain a divisive issue in the States in ten years time.

In social areas, the gay community retained its reputation for enjoying the finer things in life.

The average US gay male spent an $5,200 (£2,600) dining in the last year, going out to eat around four times a week.

Lesbians spent slightly less – around $3,640 (£1,820) per year – but still remained far above the average American household, who generally spend only $2,434 (£1,217) a year on dining.

Drinking and partying come a close second to eating, with gay men confirming their ability to party hard right into middle age.

Fifty per cent of respondents persist in going to bars or club at least once a month, despite the fact that the median age of those surveyed was 45.

Vodka was the spirit of choice for 55% of gay men and 47% of lesbians.