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“There will not be a magic day when we wake up and it’s now O.K. to express ourselves publicly. We make that day by doing things publicly until it’s simply the way things are.”
— Senator Tammy Baldwin, Democrat from Wisconsin, who became the first openly L.G.B.T.Q. person elected to the Senate in 2012
American attitudes about L.G.B.T.Q. issues have significantly shifted in the past few decades. In fact, in 1977, Americans were split on whether lesbian and gay sex should be legal at all: 43 percent believed it should be, 43 percent believed it should not and the remaining 14 percent had no opinion.
Today, 83 percent say such intimate relationships should be legal, and only 2 percent had no opinion, according to a new Gallup poll.
It was Gallup that conducted that first poll too, and the organization has been updating its data ever since, as well as adding new survey questions about transgender and other emerging issues. In 1996, for example, it first asked Americans if they supported same-sex marriage, and 27 percent said yes. This year, 63 percent said yes. (It became legal nationwide in 2015.)
More recently, though, gay and transgender rights have faced challenges — including recent decisions by the Trump administration to dismantle Obama-era protections for transgender people, among other rollbacks. But progress, particularly for lesbian and gay people, continues to be seen in public opinion.
Here are a few of the most telling stats, comparing 1977 with today.
That’s the percentage of Americans who believed that a person was born gay in 1977. In 2019, 49 percent believe that.
That’s the percentage of Americans who believed that gay people should be allowed to adopt a child in 1977. In 2019, more than five times as many Americans believe that, with 75 percent of the country supporting gay adoption rights.
That’s the percentage of Americans who believed that lesbian and gay people should have equal employment opportunities in 1977 — though that number varied depending on the profession.
According to Gallup, most Americans back then said that gay people should be hired as salespeople, and just over half said that they should be allowed in the armed forces. Less than 50 percent said they should be hired as doctors or clergy, and just over a quarter said they should be hired as elementary school teachers.
Today, nearly all Americans, 93 percent, believe lesbian and gay people should have equal access to jobs — with 91 percent saying they should be hired as doctors and 81 percent saying they should be hired as elementary school teachers.
[MORE: A Walking Tour of 11 Landmarks in Gay New York]
What else is happening
Here are six articles from The Times you might have missed.
For Pride Month, we’re looking back at New York Times coverage of L.G.B.T.Q. people and issues.
In 1856, an unnamed woman was brought to court in Syracuse, N.Y., on charges of “wearing male apparel while being female, of making love to the Syracuse belles, and marrying a woman,” according to a New York Times article at the time.
“Her counterfeit of a man is said to have been perfect,” the article said, including that she wore “gaiter boots” and spoke with “considerable confidence.”
She had married a Miss Lewis a few weeks before she was arrested, but Miss Lewis’s father had grown suspicious. His doubts led to the discovery.
Despite the arrest, Miss Lewis “still clings to her woman husband, and claims that the arrest is a conspiracy against them,” the article said. The couple was allowed to meet at the police station and “embraced each other with the greatest marks of affection.”