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The GOP’s sudden turn away from gay rights — and acceptance

Americans’ embrace of same-sex rights and acceptance of gay Americans has been one of the steadiest trends in recent political history, with support for same-sex marriage gradually rising from less than 30 percent in the mid-1990s to around 70 percent today. Support has become so strong that pollsters have largely stopped even asking about it.

But there’s increasing evidence that these gains have halted and even reversed somewhat, largely thanks to Republicans moving in the opposite direction — in some cases, sharply.

Gallup is the latest to show this:

GOP support for same-sex marriage has declined from a high of 55 percent in both 2021 and 2022, to 49 percent in 2023 and now to 46 percent today — a nine-point drop over two years.
Over that same span, the percentage of Republicans describing same-sex relations as “morally acceptable” has declined from 56 percent to 40 percent — a 16-point drop.

Those are the biggest drops in the decades-long history of Gallup polling these issues.

Before the last two years, there had been only one year with a decline in GOP support for same-sex marriage since the Supreme Court legalized it in 2015 in Obergefell v. Hodges. And the percentage of Republicans who accept the morality of same-sex relations is now lower than it’s been at any point since that decision was handed down.

Importantly, the new data suggests the declines seen in Gallup’s 2023 data weren’t a fluke. Also importantly, it’s not the only poll to suggest such issues are bleeding GOP support.

The other extensive national poll to test these issues in recent months was the American Values Atlas from the Public Religion Research Institute.

It showed a more modest decline in GOP support for same-sex marriage — from 50 percent in 2020 and 49 percent in 2022 to 47 percent in 2023.

But that’s after slow but steady gains post-Obergefell. And other measures suggest more of a decline in GOP support for same-sex rights:

34 percent opposed allowing small business owners to refuse to provide products or services to gays and lesbians. That’s down from a high of over 40 percent and the lowest that number has been since Obergefell.
59 percent favored laws protecting LGBTQ+ people from job, housing and public discrimination. That’s down from 66 percent in 2022 and is also the lowest number since Obergefell.

Some of these polls show modest declines among Democrats on these questions — four points on each of the questions asked by Gallup, and less than that on the questions asked by PRRI. But the lion’s share of the shifts have been on the political right, driving down support for each protection for same-sex Americans.

Overall, support for same-sex marriage is down two points off its previous highs in both surveys, at just shy of 7 in 10 Americans. Acceptance of same-sex relations is down seven points, to 64 percent, in the Gallup poll.

As noted, we don’t have a ton of good recent data. And it’s worth seeing what else comes out.

But the declines do make logical sense. The timing of them, after all, coincides with an increasing GOP appetite to wage culture wars that have often ensnared LGBTQ+ Americans. While Republicans largely moved away from talking about such issues post-Obergefell — recognizing that their party was on the losing end of them — that’s much less the case today.

Think the Florida “don’t say gay” bill, the “groomer” talk, efforts to remove certain books from libraries, and the increasingly vociferous conservative efforts to restrict transgender care and rights.

As these issues were percolating in 2022, my Washington Post colleague Ellen McCarthy wrote about advocates’ fears that these pushes would pull back on years and even decades of progress:

“It’s frightening,” [former Human Rights Campaign executive director Vic] Basile said on a recent afternoon from the couch of his Chevy Chase apartment, and he’s not the only longtime LGBTQ activist watching with alarm.
“Devastating,” is the word used by Hilary Rosen, the first lobbyist Basile hired at the Human Rights Campaign.
“Scary,” says Imani Woody, a longtime activist for Black and elder gay rights.
“Terrifying,” says Vivian Shapiro, a veteran activist and former co-chair of the Human Rights Campaign Fund, which raises money for the organization.
“It gives me despair,” said Elizabeth Birch, who served as executive director of the HRC from 1995 to 2004. “We really, really have won the hearts and minds of the majority of Americans — this is a despairing setback.”
“The pendulum will eventually start to swing back,” Basile says. “But God knows how long it will take for that to happen and how much more damage will get done in the meantime.”

Two years later, there’s evidence those fears were well-founded.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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