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Introduction to LGBT topics

Common beliefs about lesbians, gays,
bisexuals, and transgender persons
(LGBTs). Trends in support for LGBTs.

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The term "GLBT" is an acronym for "Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
 Transgender/Transsexual. Sometimes, additional letters are
added: "Q" for Queer or questioning, "I" for Intersexual.

Conflicts over how GLBT persons should be treated:

It is probably no surprise to you that a major conflict exists over equal rights and protections for gays and lesbians, including whether to alter the definition of marriage to include same-sex marriage (SSM). In the U.S., these topics have surpassed in importance even the conflict over abortion access. Even within a single religion, like Christianity, we see an active and apparently irresolvable debate over how persons with a homosexual or bisexual orientation should be treated. The most vocal actors in the conflict take diametrically opposing positions:

bullet Religious and conservative Protestant Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs etc., supported by members of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH): Most regard same-sex behavior as profoundly immoral and hated by God regardless of the nature of their relationships. Many regard GLBT persons as a threat to religious freedom, to the culture generally, and to the institution of opposite-sex marriage (which they generally refer to as "traditional marriage" or "natural marriage"). Most advocate a continuance of the current restrictions against gays, lesbians, bisexuals -- including prohibition of same-sex marriage in most states. Some advocate the restoration of laws that once criminalized same-sex behavior. Most opposed the extension of existing federal hate-crime laws to include sexual orientation, gender and disability status. They promote reparative therapy and prayer to convert gays into ex-gays.
 
bullet The Roman Catholic Church: This church teaches that same-sex behavior is intrinsically disordered, profoundly immoral, and hated by God regardless of the nature of the same-sex couples' relationships. They teach that lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals (LGBT) represent a threat to religious freedom. -- not a threat to the freedom of of the church and its members to believe as they wish, but as a threat to the freedom of the church to openly discriminate against LGBTs. They are seen as a danger to the culture generally, and to the institution of marriage. The Catholic church recognizes that a homosexual or bisexual orientation is generally both unchosen and unchangeable. They generally do not recommend reparative therapy because of its very low success rate and the its dangers. They expect LGBTs to remain celibate for life. They oppose many forms of discrimination against LGBTs but teach that some forms of discrimination are moral and necessary.

bullet A variety of groups, consisting of most gays, lesbians, bisexuals, those of their friends and families of origin who are supportive, religious liberals and progressives, secularists, mental health professionals and their professional associations, civil libertarians, human sexuality researchers, etc: Most favor equal rights and protections for persons of all sexual orientations, including the right to marry. Most favor the extension of federal and state hate-crime laws to include violent crimes motivated by hatred of the victim's sexual orientation. Most regard homophobia -- any denial of human rights based on sexual orientation -- to be as profoundly immoral as is sexism and racism. Most believe that homosexual, heterosexual and bisexual orientations and behavior are not intrinsically sinful.
 
bullet Religious moderates and mainliners tend to be split between the conservative and liberal viewpoints, with their position significantly correlated with their age -- older folks being more opposed to equal treatment of persons of all sexual orientations.

Among the general population in North America:

bulletBy a sizeable majority, most U.S. adults favor allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions or domestic partnerships with some or all of the normal benefits of marriage, but without calling their unions "marriages."
 
bullet Until recent years, adult support for same-sex marriage (SSM) remained below 50%, but numbers have been gradually increasing for decades. During 2010/2011, many national polls showed that supporters of SSM outnumbered those opposed.
 
bulletA significant majority of Canadian adults support same-sex marriage, which was legalized in all ten provinces and three territories in mid-2005.
 
bullet A large majority of Americans would like to see persons of all sexual orientations protected from abuse, firing, discrimination in accommodation, violence in hate crimes, exclusion from the military, etc. In fact, the vast majority of American adults believe that a federal law granting persons protection in employment already exists.

Belief systems about homosexuality:

People love to portray situations in terms of two options: the weather is either too cold or too hot; most are either Democrats or Republicans; people are either heterosexual or homosexual, etc. But sometimes, life is not that simple. It certainly does not apply in the case of the conflict over sexual orientation.

We have observed a total of six different belief systems about homosexuality. They may be briefly described as:

bullet"Abomination:" Homosexual behavior is profoundly immoral at all times, irrespective of the nature of the relationship.

bullet "Change is expected:" Homosexuals can and must make every effort to change their sexual orientation to become heterosexual.

bullet"Celibacy is expected:" If a homosexual cannot change their orientation, they must  at least remain celibate.

bullet "Marginally acceptable:" Loving committed same-sex relationships are the least awful option, and is much better than singles living promiscuously.

bullet"Affirmation:" Homosexuality, is morally neutral. Persons of all sexual orientations deserve equal rights.

bullet "Liberation:" Full acceptance and valuing of persons of all sexual orientations. Homophobia is the main evil. The six "clobber passages" in the Bible need to be reinterpreted.

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Trends in support for equality for sexual minorities:

A massive gap in beliefs exists between America's youth and elderly. Most older teens and young adults, who are not religious conservatives, have accepted homosexuality as a normal and natural sexual minority. They are far more likely than their parents to have one or more gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons among their circle of friends. They are much more supportive of sexual minorities than are their parents.

Perhaps a good indication of the age gap was shown in the CNN exit polls for California's "Prop 8" vote in 2008-NOV. It was narrowly passed (52% vs 48%) and had the effect of terminating new SSMs in the state -- at least temporarily. They showed that:

bullet64% of voters aged 18 to 24 said that they voted against Prop 8, and in favor of SSM.
bullet59% of those 25 to 29 agreed.
bullet55% of those aged 30 to 44 said that they voted for Prop 8, and against marriage equality.
bullet54% aged 45 to 64 agreed.
bullet61% of those 65 and older agreed. 1

A good indication of overall trends and the age gap is shown by a Sienna College Research Institute poll of registered voters in New York state during 2011-APR. They found:

bullet 74% of voters aged 18 to 34 said that they supported SSM.
bullet 63% of those 35 to 54 agreed.
bullet 45% of those aged 55 and older suppored SSM; 46% were opposed

Back in 2009, we wrote:

"If current trends continue, the number of American adults supporting SSM will exceed the number of adults opposed to SSM by the year 2012."

We were in error. Polls in the year 2010 started to show that a majority of American adults favored SSM. These trends have continued with national polls showing support for SSM increasing between 1 and 2 percentage points per year, and opposition falling by about the same amount.

Canadian public opinion surveys have shown that most adults in that country accept SSM as a fundamental human right. Support for SSM has continued to increase since mid-2005 when SSMs were legalized across the entire country.

Reference used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. California Proposition 8: Ban on Gay Marriage, CNN News, at: http://edition.cnn.com/ 


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Copyright © 1996 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last updated 2014-JAN-02

Author: Bruce A Robinson

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