Half of Straight Americans Think LGBT People Have Equal Rights

Though acceptance is on the rise, legal equality remains elusive in many states.
(Photo: Adrian Cabrero/Flickr)
Jan 21, 2016· 2 MIN READ
TakePart editorial fellow Nicole Mormann covers a variety of topics, including social justice, entertainment, and environment.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that legalized same-sex marriage marked a historic moment in the fight for LGBT equality. For the first time, LGBT Americans nationwide could marry (though some state legislators, judges, and others have since tried to fight the tide, unsuccessfully).

But that didn’t mean the community achieved full equal rights, and now advocates are out to set the record straight for the half of all non-LGBT Americans who seem to be under that misconception.

On Wednesday, LGBT advocacy organization GLAAD released its 2016 Accelerating Acceptance report, outlining Americans’ feelings on a number of LGBT issues. While the results show that acceptance levels are on the rise, they also reveal that a surprising number of Americans are still in the dark as to what GLAAD characterized as serious problems facing the LGBT community.

The results come from an online survey conducted by market research company Harris Poll. It polled 2,032 adults—1,781 of whom were non-LGBT—age 18 and older in early October. There are approximately 9 million LGBT Americans. An estimated 3.5 percent of adults identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, and roughly 0.3 percent are transgender, according to The Williams Institute at UCLA.

Of those who identified as straight, a solid half agreed with the statement that “gay people have the same rights as everyone else.” In fact, the majority of states—31 to be exact—don’t have fully inclusive laws in place that protect LGBT Americans from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

GLAAD officials say the survey shows just how unaware many Americans are of LGBT issues, adding that it can be “potentially dangerous” if many believe the fight for equal rights is over. “Complacency is the enemy of social progress,” said GLAAD CEO and president Sarah Kate Ellis in a statement, and emphasized that “2015 was a monumental year for the LGBT community, but marriage equality is a benchmark—not a finish line.”

Despite the gay marriage ruling, many areas of the country continue to discriminate against those who identify as anything other than straight or female/male.

Though the report shows that more non-LGBT Americans say they feel less discomfort with LGBT people, about a third expressed having no strong opinion on any of the issues presented in the survey as “serious,” including depression and suicide rates, high rates of homelessness among LGBT teens, and acts of violence against LGBT people.

In 2015 alone, at least 21 trans women were murdered in the U.S. When asked to rate the seriousness of violence against transgender people, about 27 percent of non-LGBT participants said it was “not at all serious.” Some 37 percent said the same when asked about the severity of homelessness among LGBT teens. It’s estimated that 40 percent of all homeless youth in America are LGBT.

“Even as we celebrate important advances, we must be mindful of momentum slowing, of becoming prematurely complacent or ambivalent,” wrote contributing author Daniel Barrier in the report. “We must continue to raise awareness of and advocate for a broader spectrum of LGBT equality and acceptance—beyond the single issue of marriage equality.”