June 18, 2013

Though Acceptance for Gay Americans Is Growing, Discrimination Persists


A new survey by the Pew Research Center offers a complex view of what it’s like to be an LGBT American. The survey found that while 92 percent of LGBT Americans say society is more accepting, 53 percent say they still face discrimination. Ray Suarez talks with Paul Taylor, co-author of the survey, and Gary Gates of UCLA.


JEFFREY BROWN: And now a two-part look at issues affecting gays and lesbians, ahead of much-anticipated Supreme Court decisions coming soon on major cases involving same-sex marriage.

Ray Suarez begins our coverage.

RAY SUAREZ: A new survey provides one of the largest and most complex portraits of what life is like today for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans. The sweeping survey conducted by the Pew Research Center spanned topics including political views, social stigmas and the difficulties of coming out.

It finds growing acceptance in the U.S. of the LGBT community; 92 percent of those surveyed said they agreed with that. Yet 53 percent of gay Americans say there is still discrimination. The survey was done just weeks before the Supreme Court decision and was released during Pride Month.

A short time ago, President Obama spoke at a Pride Month event at the White House about those changing attitudes.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: From Minnesota to Maryland, from the United States Senate to the NBA, it’s clear we’re reaching a turning point.

We have — we have become not just more accepting. We have become more loving as a country and as a people. Heart and minds change with time. Laws do, too.

Change like that isn’t something that starts here in Washington, but it’s something that has the power that Washington has a great deal of difficulty resisting over time.

RAY SUAREZ: For more on all this, we turn to Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center and co-author of the LGBT survey, and Gary Gates, distinguished scholar at the Williams center at UCLA and co-author of the “Gay and Lesbian Atlas.”

And, Paul Taylor, this is a survey involving a community that’s often the object of research, but rarely the subject of research. Did the LGBT Americans that you spoke to agree with what we just heard the president saying about change being under way?

PAUL TAYLOR, Executive Vice President, Pew Research Center: Yes.

We had, as you said, 90 percent, 93 percent saying society is more accepting now than it was 10 years ago. And then we said about, what 10 years from now? And another 92 percent, 93 percent said it will be more accepting. We take a lot of surveys. We rarely see numbers in the 90s.

You ask people, does your mother love you? Maybe you will get in the 90s. So, this is a nearly universally held belief. It’s an understanding that there has been an extraordinary amount of change in societal attitudes. So that is the good news story.

I said earlier today the LGBT population is living in the best of times, but they are not easy times, and there is another side to the story. And we asked a lot of questions about the experiences they have had, the perceptions of discrimination and stigma, and they’re pretty powerful. And you had a couple of examples of that.

One of the ones that struck me is, even in these more accepting times, in our survey population — we talked to about 1,200 people in this community — only slightly over half said they had told their mother of their sexual orientation, and only about four in 10 said they had told their farther. So that is an illustration of a community that is sort of, at one of the deepest parts of themselves, they’re not yet able or willing or feel comfortable sharing that with the people they’re closest to.

Read Entire Transcript Here at PBS Newshour