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Article

Beliefs and Stereotypes About LGBT People  

Gary R. Hicks

The public’s perception of, beliefs about, and interest in LGBT individuals and the issues impacting them has long had great significance to the community’s social, political, and legal progress. The last decade has seen monumental changes in public attitudes about LGBT people and the laws that affect them in the United States and around the world. Much of this change has been positive, including the landmark Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage. In some parts of the world—even those that have witnessed great strides for LGBT equality—there have also been signs of a backlash against the community’s newfound rights and visibility in society. Stereotypes of LGBT individuals, mostly negative, have been responsible for much of this reaction, as well as their historically negative view in by the public. In the 20th and 21st centuries, the mass media has played a major role in creating and perpetuating these stereotypes.

Article

Coming Out, Intergroup Relations, and Attitudes Toward LGBT Rights  

Mark R. Hoffarth and Gordon Hodson

Intergroup relations and contact between groups has historically been considered a mechanism to promote support for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights. However, LGBT identities are often concealable, and stigma discourages members of the LGBT community from disclosing that they are LGBT, which may prevent contact. Some subsets of the LGBT population make up a small percentage of the overall population, which may also decrease the quantity of contact. As such, the process of coming out to friends, relatives, and coworkers has been a common strategy of the modern LGBT movement. The strategy could be effective because the intergroup contact literature has found support for intergroup contact decreasing prejudice in meta-analyses. At the same time, researchers have challenged the assertion that intergroup contact promotes social change because intergroup contact is sometimes negative, or may be impractical or avoided, positive attitudes can coincide with acceptance of inequality, and intergroup contact may have unintended negative side effects. Research has generally found support for the notion that intergroup relations are more positive when there is greater contact. For LGBT people greater contact has been associated with decreasing anti-LGBT prejudice and increasing support for LGBT rights. However, similar to other domains of contact, the influence of LGBT contact is contextually sensitive, and a combination of psychological and structural barriers can decrease or prevent the positive effects of intergroup contact. There are strategies which may overcome these limitations, through policies (e.g., protection against discrimination), promoting types of contact that promote social change as opposed to merely positive attitudes, secondary transfer of contact effects, imagined contact, indirect forms of contact, and positive media representations of LGBT people. Gaps in the literature include a relative lack of research on contact with members of the LGBT community other than gays and lesbians (particularly non-cisgender people), intergroup contact between members of different subsets of the LGBT community, and a need for experimental and/or intervention-based research.

Article

Attitudes toward LGBT Rights: Political Tolerance and Egalitarian Values in the United States  

Andrew R. Flores

Attitudes towards political groups and their rights are often shaped by the core values held by individuals. In reference to LGBT people and their rights, research has often shown that core values play a role in understanding affect towards the group and related policies. Values such as moral traditionalism and egalitarianism have long been understood to be determinants of people’s attitudes toward LGBT rights. LGBT issues are framed relying on competing value frames, which change in their dominance over time. However, core values tend to be stable but American attitudes toward LGBT people and rights have undergone sharp increases in their favorability. One explanation for this change is an increasing political tolerance among the American public. Political tolerance is the degree to which the public supports the civil liberties of members of different social groups, and it is distinct though related to attitudes on LGBT issues of equality (e.g., marriage equality). Political tolerance encompasses attitudes toward the rights for LGBT people to exercise their free speech, political and social organization, and live free from government intrusion. In the US, adults have consistently expressed greater political tolerance for lesbian and gay people than issues of LGBT equality. Political tolerance toward lesbian and gay people has increased since the 1970s, but egalitarian values have remained rather stagnant. The effect of egalitarian values on political tolerance for lesbian and gay people was stronger in earlier years, and as Americans have become more tolerant of lesbian and gay people, the role of egalitarianism in affecting political tolerance has diminished. There are limitations of existing data, especially regarding the political tolerance of bisexuals, transgender people, and others who are generally considered to be within the broader LGBT community.

Article

African Attitudes Toward Same-Sex Relationships, 1982–2018  

Kim Yi Dionne and Boniface Dulani

One significant barrier to sexual minority rights in Africa is the generally negative attitudes ordinary Africans have toward same-sex relationships. Yet since 1998, there has been notable progress in terms of legalizing same-sex relationships on the continent, with Botswana the most recent African country to do so, in 2019. Botswana joins Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Lesotho, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe, Seychelles, and South Africa, among countries that have decriminalized same-sex relationships. Publicly available cross-national survey data measuring citizen’s attitudes toward homosexuality in 41 African countries from 1982 to 2018 shows that, on average, Africans hold negative attitudes toward same-sex relationships, which is consistent with previous reports. However, there is variation in these attitudes, suggesting greater tolerance of sexual minorities among women, people who use the Internet more frequently, and urban residents. One key finding is that homophobia is not universal in Africa. In light of recent policy and legal developments advancing sexual minority rights, and given findings in existing scholarship highlighting the influence politicians have in politicizing homophobia, the literature questioning the generalized notion of a “homophobic Africa” is growing, and there are calls for more research on the factors influencing decriminalization.

Article

Attitudes Toward LGBT People and Their Rights in Europe  

Kath Wilson

Attitudes toward LGBT people have changed in Europe since the 1990s; there is generally much more tolerance and acceptance. Evidence drawn from surveys and research projects including the European Social Survey, European Values Study, and Pew Research Center illustrate the types of attitudes that have changed, and in which European countries change has occurred. A comparison of attitudes and tolerance across Europe indicates that some countries and groups of countries are more accepting of LGBT people. North-western European nations appear high in the tolerance rankings of trend surveys, while more easterly European nations have not always followed this progression. Indeed, in cases such as Russia and Chechnya, “propaganda laws” have denied LGBT people basic human rights. Hostility toward and violence against LGBT people is perpetrated with seeming impunity in these areas. Factors that influence attitudes toward LGBT people and their rights include democracy and economic development, religiosity, global forces, and degrees of contact. There is a clear link between legislation and attitudes; in countries where legislation is in place and, for example, where same-sex marriage is legal, surveys overwhelmingly show a higher acceptance of LGBT people. Legislation is a powerful influence in shaping social attitudes, so it is important to consider the legislation adopted by various European countries. Institutions such as the European Union are effective in providing protections for LGBT citizens as well as leading on areas such as the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). There has been “pushback” in terms of change and one of the more contested areas is same-sex marriage. While the trend since the late 20th century has seemed to be toward introducing same-sex marriage, a number of countries, largely in Eastern Europe, have introduced constitutional bans on same-sex marriage, defining marriage as solely between a man and woman. The position of trans and non-binary people is particularly perilous since there is very little legislative protection in place for them. There has been a positive change in attitudes and legislation across Europe which has enhanced the lived lives of LGBT people; these changes, however, have not been even or uniform across the area.

Article

Public Opinion and Religion: Gay Rights in the United States  

Darren E. Sherkat

Religion plays an important role in structuring civil rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people (GLBT). Religious proscriptions against homosexuality were almost universally codified into law until the late 20th century, and laws against homosexuality and denying civil rights to homosexual remain in place in most nation states. The advent of the civil rights movement for GLBT persons has generated considerable backlash both in nations where civil rights have been secured, as well as in nations where many political leaders and movements view the extension of civil rights to GLBT persons as an external cultural threat. Religious opposition to the extension of rights has swiftly followed GLBT activism seeking: (a) an end to legal proscriptions; (b) alleviation of harassment and discrimination; (c) marriage and family recognition; (d) action related to the HIV/AIDS epidemic; and (e) recognition of transgendered identity and transgendered rights. GLBT movements quickly achieved considerable success and even garnered support from religious liberals. Data from the General Social Surveys (GSS) in the United States show that while support for same-sex marriage has increased in the U.S., significant differences remain across religious groups. Specifically, sectarian Protestants are significantly less supportive of civil rights for GLBT persons, while the non-religious are most supportive. While GLBT persons are making substantial political gains throughout the world, in many places backlash is eroding civil rights, and in much of the world the movement has lacked success. Several liberal religious groups have been crucial for the international success of human rights campaigns for GLBT persons, however conservative religious groups from several religious traditions have successfully promoted the continued repression of GLBT persons and movements.

Article

Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Political Decision Making  

Ewa A. Golebiowska

Public opinion on LGBT Americans’ rights has become more supportive of equal treatment over time. The movement toward greater egalitarianism has been particularly pronounced on attitudes toward same-sex marriage and gay adoption. Today, the general public is overwhelmingly supportive of laws to protect gays and lesbians against job discrimination, the right of gay and lesbian couples to adopt children, and legal recognition of same-sex marriages. It is also overwhelmingly supportive of legal protections for gay and lesbian employees, although we do not know whether abstract support for equality in the workplace translates into support for the hiring of gays and lesbians in all occupations. Yet, many questions concerning LGBT Americans’ rights remain controversial. The general public is especially polarized on the questions of whether transgender individuals should be able to use the bathrooms of the gender with which they identify and whether business owners in the wedding services industry can discriminate against same-sex couples on religious grounds. Systematic research on political attitudes of LGBT individuals using probability samples is practically nonexistent, although there are many studies of lesbians, gays, and bisexuals’ attitudes, identities, and behavior that use convenience samples. The existing studies demonstrate that lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals tend to identify as ideologically liberal and favor the Democratic Party in their affinities and votes. LGBT Americans are far more supportive of equality in all issue domains although bisexuals—compared to lesbians and gay men—are more lukewarm in their embrace of equality on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Scholarship on LGBT Americans in public opinion has primarily explored attitudes toward gays and lesbians and has tended to focus on attitudes toward same-sex marriage and adoption. It examines psychological, political, and demographic correlates of public opinion regarding LGBT individuals and explores links between interpersonal contact with LGBT individuals and attitudes toward them. Generally speaking, moral traditionalism, gender role conceptions, and attributions for the existence of homosexuality are especially important psychological predictors of attitudes toward sexual and gender identity minorities. Partisan and ideological identities play an important role too as do cues from ideologically compatible political elites. Of the several demographic attributes that researchers have included in their models, religion-related variables stand out for their predictive prowess. Finally, interpersonal contact with sexual and gender minorities, as well as community exposure to LGBT individuals, is associated with more favorable views toward them. Another yardstick by which commitment to equal treatment for LGBT Americans could be measured is whether and how sexual orientation and gender identity influence political fortunes of candidates for electoral office. Scholarship to date suggests that sexual orientation and gender identity function as important heuristics that influence voters’ thinking about LGBT candidacies. Some scholarship mines survey questions that inquire about respondents’ willingness to support hypothetical LGBT candidates for office. Others use experimental design to isolate the influences of sexual orientation and gender identity on political evaluation. Altogether, these studies demonstrate that LGBT individuals do not face a level playing field when they launch campaigns for office.

Article

The American South and LGBT Politics  

Jay Barth

The cultural distinctiveness of the South led to a backlash in the region in the years following the rise of a national LGBTQ movement. In the decades that followed, political science research showed that the South remained fundamentally different than elsewhere in the nation in terms of attitudes regarding LGBTQ individuals and policies, both regarding overall views and Southerners’ imperviousness to personal contact with queer individuals in terms of reshaping attitudes. In electoral politics, explicit group-based appeals regarding LGBTQ individuals were often employed. And, policy divergence between the South and non-South was stark. While unambiguous shifts have occurred in the South in a more pro-LGBTQ rights direction, the region remains distinctively conservative when it comes to LGBTQ politics. Particularly striking are Southern attitudes toward transgender individuals and policies. That said, “two Souths” have begun to cement on LGBTQ politics as urbanized and suburbanized areas have diverged. Moreover, within the region’s Republican Party, a factional divide has begun to show itself across the South. The South remains consequential in gauging whether backpedaling on the dramatic progress made on LGBTQ rights is occurring in the United States.

Article

Attitudes Toward LGB Families: International Policies and LGB Family Planning  

Pedro Alexandre Costa

According to recent U.S. census data, there are over 700,000 same-gender couples, of which 114,00 have children. U.K. census data further revealed over 200,000 same-gender parented families, and there is evidence that these numbers have been increasing in the last few decades. Between the late 1980s and early 1990s, research on the psychosocial well-being of LGB families was established with a focus on the potential impact of parents’ sexual orientation on the psychological adjustment of their children. Interest in LGB families was evidenced by the growing political and public attention, and became a central issue within the LGBT+ movement across the Western world, especially in Europe and the United States. However, attitudes toward LGB family policies have not evolved in a linear fashion insofar as they have accompanied the constant back and forth in LGB family policies and legislation. Negative attitudes toward LGB family policies are rooted in the negative evaluations of LGB individuals based on beliefs that LGB people are less fit as parents or unable to form and sustain healthy relationships because of their sexual or gender identity. However, these negative beliefs differ according to heterosexual individuals’ characteristics. Research has shown that men, older, less educated, non-White, politically conservative, highly religious, and authoritarian, as well as those who believe that homosexuality is controllable, strictly adhere to traditional gender roles and authorities, and do not have frequent or close contact with LGB individuals, hold higher levels of sexual prejudice toward LGB individuals and LGB family policies. As of January 2020, same-gender marriage and parenthood are recognized in around 30 countries worldwide, although some countries recognize some forms of same-gender unions, but not marriage, whereas others recognize the right of LGB individuals to have children but not to marry. LGB family policies have progressed mostly through two different pathways: (a) the judicial pathway, which has involved litigation and court rulings on specific matters related to same-gender relationships and parenthood and which was undertaken in the United States, and (b) the legislative pathway, which has relied on political discussion and policy initiatives and was undertaken in the Iberian Peninsula (Portugal and Spain). The different pathways to equality in LGB family policies have different impacts for LGB individuals. In particular, the constant negative messages regarding same-gender couples as being unable to have healthy relationships have been shown to contribute to chronic minority stress and psychological distress among LGB individuals. By contrast, the legalization of same-gender marriage and parenthood provide important benefits and protections for LGB families in addition to promoting their well-being. Examining the evolution of attitudes and legislation regarding LGB family policies is important to inform further initiatives aimed at correcting inequalities for LGB families.

Article

Spain’s LGBT Movement  

Kerman Calvo and J. Ignacio Pichardo

The LGBT movement has been successful in improving the legal and social standing of sexual minorities in Spain; this includes the recognition of same-sex marriages, joint adoption, and the right to change identification in public registers. The movement has also contributed to a wider acceptance of LGBT diversity at the societal level. LGBT mobilizations in Spain started in the 1970s, with the transition toward democracy. The first political generation of activists believed in gay liberation, supported revolutionary ideas, and defended street protesting. This did not prevent activists from seeking collaboration with the state, as urgent legal action was required to end the criminalization of homosexual relations. After a decade of demobilization, a new generation of activists revamped LGBT activism in Spain during the 1990s, again with a well-defined political agenda: reacting to the devastation caused by AIDS, and also to the changes taking place in the international stage, the new “proud” generation demanded not only individual rights, but also family rights. The legalization of same-sex marriage (and joint adoption) in 2005 was the outcome of a vibrant cycle of mobilization. Contrary to some expectations, the Spanish LGBT movement has not become the victim of its own success. By shifting its attention toward the goal of substantive equality and by reaching out to new communities, the movement remains influential and vigilant against threats posed by the consolidation of new forms of conservative countermobilization.

Article

Attitudes Toward LGBT People and Rights in Africa  

Jocelyn M. Boryczka

Capturing the nuanced attitudes toward LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people and rights in Africa involves examining them from within and outside the African context. Constructions of the entire African continent as holding negative attitudes toward LGBT peoples and denying them any rights remain quite commonplace across the Global North. However, closer analysis of specific nation-states and regions complicates our understanding of LGBT people and rights in Africa. Advances in the global study of LGBT attitudes through tools such as the Global LGBTI Inclusion Index and the Global Acceptance Index survey African peoples’ beliefs about LGBT communities. These measures locate African attitudes about LGBT peoples within a comparative context to decenter assumptions and many inaccurate, often colonialist, constructions. Attitudinal measures also expose the gap between legislation securing formal rights and the beliefs driving peoples’ everyday practices. These measures further specify how African governments can, often in response to Western political and economic forces, leverage homophobia on a national level to serve their interests despite a misalignment with the population’s attitudes toward LGBT peoples. Nongovernmental organizations and advocates raise awareness about LGBT rights and issues to impact socialization processes that shape these attitudes to generate political, social, and economic change. A rights-based approach and research on attitudes emerging from the African context represent shifts critical to better understanding how LGBT peoples and rights can be more effectively advanced across the continent.