USA's shifting attitudes toward gay men and lesbians

Published: December 5, 2012

 The United States has seen dramatic changes in recent years in attitudes on issues ranging from permitting gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military to allowing them to marry. A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll looks at where the public stands now, and a separate survey of gay men and lesbians explores their perspective.

5:02PM EST December 5. 2012 – In the wake of historic victories for gay-rights supporters in last month’s elections, a pair of USA TODAY/Gallup Polls find growing acceptance among Americans toward gay men and lesbians — and soaring optimism among gay Americans that issues involving homosexuality will one day no longer divide the nation.

In a survey of respondents who identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, three of four say they are generally open with others about their sexual orientation. More than nine of 10 say people in their community have become more accepting in recent years.

MORE: Gay-marriage support strongest on coasts

That feeling is ratified in a nationwide USA TODAY poll of all Americans that finds broad acceptance of economic rights for same-sex couples and majority support for gay marriage and adoption. A 51% majority predict that at some point, the country will reach a general agreement on such issues.

The changes echo times when attitudes toward African Americans and women were in flux, scholars say. With young adults by far the most tolerant of homosexuality — among those 18 to 29 years old, 73% support same-sex marriage — the trend seems more likely to accelerate than reverse.

More than a third of Americans surveyed say their views have changed significantly over time toward gay marriage, an issue being battled in states across the country and before the Supreme Court. The high court could announce as early as Friday whether it will accept cases challenging California’s Proposition 8 and the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal programs from recognizing same-sex marriages.

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