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15 Years of Gay Activism paved way to Gay Marriage Rights

Anissa Ford's picture

Over the past 15 years, American attitudes toward the gay and lesbian community have undergone a slow but progressive shift.

Today, 42 percent of the American population is okay with same-sex marriage.

Although the percentage does not reflect one full half of the US population, it does reflect the absolute highest number of Americans being in agreement with same sex marriage the nation has seen in 15 years.

What segment of the population has shifted its attitude toward gay and lesbian lifestyles over the years?

The Protestant and White Catholic community have come out most notably over the past year in support of gay marriage.

About half of the Protestant religious population, 49 percent, do not have an issue with same-sex marriage and of that 49 percent, 35 percent attend service regularly.

The Catholic community has also shifted its empathy votes in favor of gay and lesbian communities. 49 precent of white Catholics are in favor of same-sex marriage. In both Catholic and Protestant populations, the increase in support has risen some four to five percent from 2009 to 2010.

It is tempting to think that American attitudes toward gay marriage have shifted because the country elected its first African American president. However, mass media: reality, comedy and drama television and film, has significantly integrated gay and lesbian lifestyles into its programming over the past decade.

HBO's 'Six Feet Under' and The Sopranos featured sympathetic and likable gay male characters. "Brokeback Mountain" broke silences on male machismo and homosexuality. Like ‘Brokeback Mountain,” the lesbian film, ‘The Kids Are Alright’ received Oscar nods, thus broadening visibility and raising awareness of not only same-sex marriage, but same-sex couples raising children. There are countless other films and television shows, not to mention television stations, devoted to gay and lesbian lifestyles.

Home and Garden reality shows regularly feature same-sex homeowners. Fashion focused reality shows like Bravo's 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy' (2003) easily introduced the world to the fun and positive influence gay males have on the fashion industry.

That trend is still seen today, particularly in high fashion reality series like Heidi Klum's Project Runway and Tyra Banks' America’s Next Top Model.

And while television has played its role, the primary bearers of support for same sex marriages come from Generation X, those born between 1965 and 1980. President Obama, born in 1961, is an avant garde Baby Boomer, as the least support for gay marriage comes from his fellow Boomers. 48 percent of Generation X'ers are in favor of gay marriage.

Of course, the divide on gay and lesbian marriage is a political one. Where 53 percent of Democrats are fine with it, Republicans on board total about 24 percent.

It is, perhaps, the African American population who are pulling the conservative reins in the Democratic party on the gay marriage platform because only 30 percent of African Americans are in favor of gay marriage.

Obama’s decision that DOMA is unconstitutional comes at time in American history when the economy, unemployment, rising prices and jobs have taken precedent over social issues like abortion and same sex marriage. Politicians elected to Congress last November strode into office without the burden of what many perceive as moral issues like abortion and gay marriage.

Although American attitudes on same-sex marriage has softened over the years, the attitudes on same-sex couples raising children has a way to go. 43 percent of Americans are still uncomfortable, and therefore opposed to gay and lesbian couples raising children.

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