The State of LGBT Rights Across America

New research suggests that attitudes are changing - for the better

Joe Solmonese (courtesy of HRC)

The HRC – along with Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research – released results from a recent survey that suggests that even among Americans who consider themselves to be conservative, support for LGBT rights is on the upswing. In fact, the folks surveyed seem to be quite a bit more progressive than many Republicans currently holding and vying for office. The poll coincides with a 12-week bus tour across America, “On the Road to Equality,” designed to educate Americans about LGBT rights issues – particularly in states where protections are nonexistent.

Based on the survey results, there’s already influential groundwork.

Seventy-three percent of people polled in the South, for instance, admit they support workplace protection for gay and lesbian people. But this attitude conflicts with regional laws – many of the southern states do not actually have laws protecting LGBT people from being fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity. Similarly, 78 percent of Midwesterners also say they support protection in the workplace despite a lack of protections in their state laws.

And this is just the beginning.

“We are in the midst of a cultural tipping point of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues and our job is to push the scale as far and as fast as we can toward fairness,” says HRC President Joe Solmonese in a statement.

More than half of the respondents also support same-sex marriage and almost 60 percent say they are in favor of extending federal benefits to LGBT couples who have married in states where it’s already legal. Almost 80 percent also support anti-bullying programs in schools (because, let’s face it, bullying is about more than simply LGBT issues).

Recently, on CNN’s State of the Union, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, expressed a similar attitude, saying, “As time goes on, what I find is more and more people have gay friends, they have gay relatives. People are much more forward with their thinking about this now. I think they’re much more open to it.” Feinstein is opposed to DOMA, saying it’s unconstitutional. She’s instead proposed a “Respect for Marriage Act.”

Most surprising, in some ways, is that an overwhelming number of people surveyed (almost 80 percent) also endorse transgender protection from discrimination. The transgender community has certainly been more visible in recent years. And the survey mirrors that, with 64 percent of people saying they know someone who is transgender.

Additionally, almost 60 percent say that they wouldn’t be upset if their child or grandchild was gay, and 77 percent of men specifically say they would be comfortable being friends with gay men (that number reaches more than 80 percent for women with lesbian friends).

“The poll shows Americans believe in fairness,” says Solmonese, “but also that we have a long way to go in realizing that goal.”

And despite the current push by more conservative candidates currently on the campaign trail (looking at you, Michele Bachmann), fewer than 25 percent say they believe reparative therapy (or “praying the gay away”) works. This is also echoed in the scientific and medical communities.

“Our efforts on the road this summer and fall are a first step in bridging the gap between where LGBT people are now and achieving the dream of equality to which the vast majority of Americans aspire,” says Solmonese.

The tour schedule is as follows:

Aug 12-14        Salt Lake City, UT

Aug 19-21         Omaha & Lincoln, NE

Aug 26-28        Lawrence, KS & Kansas City, MO

Sept 1-5             New Orleans, LA

Sept 9-11           Austin & College Station, TX

Sept 16-18         Little Rock, AR

Sept 23-25         Louisville & Lexington, KY

Sept 30-Oct 3    Washington, DC

Oct 7-9              Atlanta, GA

Oct 14-16          Birmingham & Tuscaloosa, AL

Oct 21-23          Jacksonville, FL

Oct 28-30          Orlando, FL