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The Friends and Family Plan: Contact with Gays and Support for Gay Rights

Authors

  • Gregory B. Lewis

    Corresponding author
    1. Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University
      Gregory B. Lewis is a professor of public management and policy in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University and director of the joint Georgia State-Georgia Tech doctoral program in public policy. He studies career patterns and attitudes of public employees, public support for lesbian and gay rights, and morality policy more broadly.
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Gregory B. Lewis is a professor of public management and policy in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University and director of the joint Georgia State-Georgia Tech doctoral program in public policy. He studies career patterns and attitudes of public employees, public support for lesbian and gay rights, and morality policy more broadly.

Abstract

According to both the contact hypothesis and gay rights advocates, coming out to straight friends and family members should increase acceptance of homosexuality and support for gay rights. If lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals (LGBs) come out primarily to people they expect to be accepting, however, the repeated finding that people who know LGBs are more likely to support gay rights could be overstating the impact of coming out. Using individual-level data from 27 national surveys, I find that similar variables predict both knowing LGBs and supporting gay rights, but in different ways. Even after controlling for those demographic, religious, and political variables—and sometimes also for beliefs about whether some people are born gay and whether homosexuality is immoral—people who know LGBs are much more likely to support gay rights. The effect holds for every issue, in every year, for every type of relationship, and for every demographic, religious, and political subgroup.

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