Wednesday, June 27, 2007

CNN/Opinion Research Poll shows most Americans now see homosexuality as immutable

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation study (of 515 respondents) shows a shift in public views on homosexuality. 42% of respondents believe that homosexuality results from the environment, and 39% believe that it has a biological origin. In 1977, a poll had resulted with 13% for that number. 55% now believe that homosexuality cannot be changed, up from 45% in 2001 and 36% in 1998.

78% of respondents said that they supported the ability of gays and lesbians to serve with reasonable openness in the United States military, which is the case in most other western nations now. This finding may be related to public perception of the unfairness of the current "backdoor draft" for Iraq, and the perception that the risk of military service should be shared equitably. The finding may also put more pressure on Congress to accept Marty Meehan's bill to essentially repeal "don't ask don't tell" as it is currently codified into law. Political support for lifting the ban through Congressional legislative democratic process is important, as appeals courts have said several times that the explicit power given to Congress to regulate the Armed Forces makes it very difficult to overturn "don't ask don't tell" constitutionally.

On family issues, 57% said that gays and lesbians should be able to adopt children (that probably incorporates foster care, too), despite draconian laws in a few states (which celebrity Rose O’Donnell has fought in Florida). 24% support gay marriage, and 27 support gay civil unions or domestic partnerships, suggesting that slightly over half of respondents suggest comparable rights for same-sex couples.

The theory that homosexuality, especially in men, has a biological basis has gained traction since the 1990s, especially with the writings (in Atlantic Magazine in 1993 and later the book “A Separate Creation” (Hyperion) in 1996, by Chandler Burr, (review) as well as various credible research studies, sometimes reported in Science or Scientific American. Scientists sometimes see some homosexual behavior in animals, and wonder if it is a natural component of complex socialization, is altruistic for the community as a whole or pressures reproductive processes to be even more selective for the majority who do procreate.

Of course, we get to the existential questions. Some conservatives will maintain that a tendency toward alcoholism is inherited, but that does not “excuse” excessive drinking or negate the need for "treatment". Sexual orientation is much more personal than substance use. Of course, many people find that homosexuality contradicts their religious upbringing, but, as noted before, it is now becoming apparent that some people feel that they need emotional deference and social “loyalty” from others around them and preferential treatment by society in order to raise families in permanent monogamous marriages.

These percentages, especially on political proposals regarding equal rights for gays, are more favorable for equal rights and responsibilities than probably many people (including legislators) expected.

The story is here.

Update: Saturday June 30

Elizabeth Cohen or CNN wrote a story , "Step by step, researcher looks for sexuality clues" about Atlanta researcher David Sylva, and studies trying to relate sexual orientation to gait and even to counterclockwise scalp hair swirls. Some of it sounds stereotyped. The story link is here.

Picture: Another shot of "Ivy Town" in Washington DC, area in controversy over zoning regulations and the need for some DC gay-oriented businesses displaced by the Nats Stadium to relocate.

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