The Era of Civil Unions Is Coming To An End
May 17th, 2013
Remember when Civil Unions were the viable alternative to marriage equality? Robert Jones and Daniel Cox of the Public Religion Research Institute explain that those days are quickly drawing to a close:
The changing political composition of civil union supporters shows that the center of gravity of this debate has shifted significantly. The civil union option has moved from being a middle way dominated by political moderates a decade ago to one that is, today, most attractive to political conservatives. And looking ahead, there is evidence that the civil union option may have a limited future, at least if younger Americans are any indication. When given a three-way choice, civil unions are the least popular option among Millennials (Americans born after 1980). Only slightly more than 1-in-10 (13%) Millennials prefer civil unions, while 67% say they support allowing gay and lesbian people to marry, and 15% oppose any legal recognition of a gay couple’s relationship.
Nate Silver Examines Growing Support for Same-Sex Marriage
March 27th, 2013
On Tuesday, Nate Silver examined national and state-level polling data on the growing support for marriage equality, and while he’s not yet ready to announce that a majority of Americans support marriage equality — there is still a lot of variation in the polls — he does say that supporters now outnumber opponents nationally:
What’s clearer is the long-term trend. The chart below documents national polls on same-sex marriage since 1996, as according to PollingReport.com. (It excludes polls that offer a three-way choice between same-sex marriage, civil unions, and no legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples, focusing on those that require a binary choice.) The polls are accompanied by a trendline determined through Loess regression to reflect the change in public opinion over time.
In the past, we have sometimes considered the possibility that support for same-sex marriage is increasing at a faster rate than before. The data seems to suggest, however, that the increase in support has been reasonably steady since about 2004.
Silver notes however that the linear increase in support since 2004 nationally does not necessarily mean that support has been increasing steadily in all fifty states:
In 2011, I published a model projecting ballot initiative results for same-sex marriage based on two scenarios: one which assumed a linear increase in support, and the other which assumed an accelerating trend.
In general, the more conservative linear model was closer to the mark in forecasting the 2012 results. It predicted that 48.8 percent of voters would vote in support of same-sex marriage on average among the five states, fairly close to the actual figure of 50.1 percent. By contrast, the accelerated model predicted that 53.6 percent would vote to support same-sex marriage in these states.
…However, the predictions were not especially accurate when looking at individual states. Both versions of the model underestimated same-sex marriage support in Maryland and Minnesota, while both versions overestimated it in Maine, North Carolina and Washington.
But what about future predictions in the states? After all, that’s why we read Nate Silver, isn’t it? Well, here it is. Silver predicts that by 2016, voters in 32 states would approve same-sex marriage legislation, and by 2020, voters in 44 states would do so — including even Texas and Oklahoma. Readers in Rhode Island, Hawaii, New Jersey, Delaware, take heart: there’s no good reason for you guys not having marriage equality soon. Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi: it’s gonna be a while.
Yet Another Poll Shows Young Evangelicals’ Increased Support for Marriage Equality
September 9th, 2011
The Washington Post points to a poll from the Public Religion Research Institute released in late August that found a huge generation gap between young Evangelical Christians and seniors in support for same-sex marriage. PPRI found that there is at least a 20-point gap between Millennials (age 18 to 29) overall regardless of religious affiliation and seniors (age 65 and older) on every public policy position concerning LGBT people. The survey found that 62% of Millennials favor allowing same-sex marriage, 69% are okay with gay couples adopting children, 71% favor civil unions and 79% favor employment anti-discrimination measures. Sixty-nine percent of Millennials overall believe that religious groups are alienating young people by being anti-gay.
The gap persists among Evangelicals as well. Forty-four percent of white Evangelical Millennials favor marriage equality, as opposed to 12% of Evangelical seniors.
Taking religion out of the equation, the same poll also found that 49% of Republican Millennials also favor marriage equality, in contrast to 19% of Republican seniors and 31% of Republicans overall.
The same poll also found that 52% of self-identified Catholics favor allowing gay people to marry, and an identical proportion believe that gay relationships are not a sin. What’s more, 46% of Catholics think the Catholic Church’s position on homosexuality is too conservative, 43% think it’s about right, and only 6% think it is too liberal. Among Catholics who attend Mass weekly, 37% overall think the church is too conservative on gay issues while 54% say it is about right. This poll also confirms earlier findings that there is a significant ethnic division among Catholics on this issue, with 55% of Hispanic Catholics believing the church is too conservative on homosexuality, compared to 43% of white non-Hispanic Catholics holding the same view.
The poll’s margins of error: ±2% for the general sample, 3.7% for white Evangelicals, 3.9% for Catholics, 8.3% for Latino Catholics, 4.5% for Millennials, 3.8% for seniors, and 3.5% for Republicans. No margin of error was given for white Evangelicals Millennials or for white Evangelical seniors.
Bipartisan Pollsters Find Rapid Increase In Support for Marriage Equality
July 29th, 2011
Over the past year or so, we have had several polls showing increased support for marriage equality. While we know the trend has been in our favor for quite some time, it’s been hard to take some of these polls seriously. Many of us remember all too well the polls showing Prop 8 going down in defeat, only to wake up on the day following election day to see the equal rights of millions of Californians stripped from them.
Today, Freedom to Marry had announced that two leading pollsters, one Republican and the other Democrat, have reviewed the polling data over the past fifteen years and have seen a very notable shift in support over the past two years specifically. According to their study (PDF: 136KB/4 pages), that increased support in the past two years has been across the board, including among older Americans and Republicans.
This isn’t a new poll, but rather an analysis of other polls which have already been published, including Gallup, Quinnipiac University, Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), CNN/Opinion Research Corp (CNN/ORC), ABC News/Washington Post, and Pew Research Center.
This study confirms what Rob Tisinai noticed a few weeks ago by looking at the ABC/WaPo poll alone. Rob noticed that “For the most part, older people are more supportive of marriage equality in 2011 than younger people were in 2005.” And that increase in support among older Americans cannot be explained by older people dying off alone. His analysis is worth revisiting here. The authors of the Freedom To Marry study agree:
Ultimately, things are changing very quickly because support levels are up in all age and party categories. This allows one to conclude that many adults are rethinking their position, and it is taking place at all age levels and among all partisans, including older Americans and Republicans. Attitudes are changing at a slower pace among older adults and conservatives, but they’re changing.
More encouragingly, they notice that “the intensity of opinion is changing at a rapid pace. As of today, supporters of marriage for gay couples feel as strongly about the issue as opponents do, something that was not the case in the recent past.”
US Adults Think 25% of Americans Are Gay
May 31st, 2011
I really don’t know what to make of this:
U.S. adults, on average, estimate that 25% of Americans are gay or lesbian. More specifically, over half of Americans (52%) estimate that at least one in five Americans are gay or lesbian, including 35% who estimate that more than one in four are. Thirty percent put the figure at less than 15%.
How one views the percentage of gay Americans appears to have mixed results when it comes to equality. Those who support marriage equality peg the percentage of gay people at 25.1% versus 24.1% for those who don’t. But those who believe gay and lesbian relationships should be criminalized peg the percentage at 26.2% versus 23.8 for those who don’t. With a 4% margin of error, both results are a statistical tie, but the results on criminalization might be worth further investigation.
Researcher Questions Intense Focus on LGBT Youth Suicide: Is it Time for a More Holistic Approach to Supporting LGBT Youth?
October 22nd, 2010
On October 21st, Ritch Savin-Williams, professor of developmental psychology at Cornell University, was interviewed by NPR’s Robert Siegel about LGBT youth suicide and the significant attention the issue has received over the past several weeks. In the interview, Savin-Williams claims there is no “epidemic” of LGBT teen suicide and that attention to the issue may be stigmatizing the majority of LGBT youth who are, in fact, just as happy and healthy as their straight peers.
SIEGEL And what, if anything, is harmful about all this attention?
Prof. WILLIAMS: For me, first off, scientifically it’s not true. That is that, as a developmental psychologist, when we look at the wide population of youth who identify as gay or who have same-sex attractions, it appears to me when I look at the data that they’re actually just as healthy, and just as resilient, and just as positive about their life as are straight youth.
So from a scientific perspective, there is certainly no gay suicide epidemic. But the more problematic aspect for me is that I worry a great deal about the image that we are giving gay-identified youth.
Savin-Williams is a noted researcher and published author. He isn’t a right-wing hack with an anti-gay agenda hiding behind a faux academic mask.
Rather, much of his work has focused on the experiences of LGBT youth, the resilience factors present in their lives that enable them to thrive in anti-LGBT climates, and the new ways LGBT youth are assimilating and expressing their identities, often without adopting the labels used by established LGBT culture. (For more, see his book The New Gay Teenager).
When asked in the interview about the differences between reported research confirming that LGBT Youth are significantly more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers and his own conclusions, Savin-Willams claims that those results may be skewed by lack of representative samples:
…As we get a more representative sample of youth who identify as gay, who have sane-sex attraction, what we discovered is that difference begins to narrow considerably. So, do we emphasize this kind of difference, group difference, or do we begin to say, well actually it’s not quite as bad as we have portrayed it to be , or at least as how the medical sciences, the mental health providers and research, and the public policy people have said.
While many academics are just as quick to point out limitations of research on LGBT people - an issue often discussed here on BTB – Savin-Williams seems to stand nearly alone in his conclusions that life for LGBT teenagers is not that bad. He admits that it is possible to “cherry pick” studies that support either conclusion about LGBT youth, but for him it is more about the strategy and message employed by those working to support and protect them.
Do we solely focus on the cohort of LGBT youth struggling the most? Or, should we broaden our attention to the larger proportion of LGBT youth who are healthy, well-adjusted, and not suicidal?
In the interview, Savin-Willams concludes:
Most gay youth – how many gay youth? I would say 90 percent – are actually doing quite well. They are not depressed, They are not anxious. They are not attempting suicide. They are really quite ordinary adolescents.
On the surface it may seem like this interview is fodder for anti-gay leaders’ efforts to discredit research on LGBT populations and absolve themselves of responsibility for the affect the homophobic society they create has on young people.
However, Savin-Williams is simply trying to get us to look at the “other side” of the data often cited when we are confronted by tragic incidents of LGBT youth suicide.
For example, in 2007 the American Journal of Public Health published the results of a study of over 14,000 youth ages 18 to 26 who participated in the federal National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Nearly 5 percent of youth who identified as LGB in the study reported attempting suicide compared to 1.6 percent of non-LGB youth. In other words, LGB youth were over three times more likely to attempt suicide – certainly cause for alarm.
However, approximately 95 percent of the LGB youth in the study did not report that they attempted suicide.
This is not merely a matter of semantics. There is a critical need to examine the lives of the overwhelming majority of LGB youth who are not suicidal. The goal is not to be critical of the focus on youth in despair. Rather, a better understanding of the factors and circumstances that support resilience and health in the lives of LGB youth will help us further support and decrease the prevalence of suicide for those most in need.
Still, I personally struggle with trying to balance focus on the lives of LGBT youth when confronted with the seemingly never-ending, heart-breaking stories about those who have completed suicide.
More than 15 studies have consistently shown that gay and lesbian youth attempt suicide at higher rates than their heterosexual peers (see: Kitts, R. L. (2005, Fall). Gay adolescents and suicide: Understanding the association. Adolescence, 40(159), 621-629.) Clearly LGBT youth suicide is widespread, even if “epidemic” is not the appropriate word to describe it.
To further explore this struggle, I took a closer look at Savin-Williams earlier research, in which he hypothesizes that LGB youth who participate in studies through their connection to programs at LGBT community centers or who are willing to identify as LGB on a government survey may be at higher risk for suicide than the population of LGB youth as a whole.
Additionally, he points out that many of the surveys used to asses suicide risk do not ask questions that differentiate between reported and more serious suicide attempts, such as those that are life-threatening and require medical attention.
In support of his assertions, in 2001 Savin-Williams published the results of a study of 226 youth ages 17 to 25 recruited at introductory human development and sexuality college courses, which though small may have provided a more representative sample than participants recruited at LGBT community centers and youth programs.
While he did find that the LGB men and women in his study were more likely to report past suicide attempts, the magnitude of difference decreased when only “true” and “life-threatening” attempts were considered. For example, lesbian, bisexual and heterosexual women reported the same incidence of life threatening attempts (3 percent).
However, gay or bisexual men were still significantly more likely to report a life-threatening attempt (6 percent) than heterosexual men (0 percent).
In 2005, a study of 528 LGB youth in the New York City metro area incorporated some of the critiques of Savin-Williams and other researchers concerned about the impact of research design. While nearly 33 percent of the LGB youth in that study reported a past suicide attempt, less than half (15 percent) reported “serious” attempts, about half of which required medical attention. (See D’Augelli, A. R., et. al. .(2005, December). Predicting suicide attempts of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 35(6), 646-661).
The researchers compared these findings to comparable epidemiological data from New York City, which showed that approximately 11 percent of high school students reported planning suicide. They concluded that, when making a reasonable assumption that many of the attempts reported in these epidemiological data were not serious, LGB youth still attempt suicide at higher rates than heterosexual youth, even if only attempts that are serious and life-threatening are considered.
What should we conclude based on this analysis and should our approach to the needs of LGBT youth change based on Savin-Williams’ critique?
First, there is an overwhelming preponderance of evidence that LGB (and T, though there is a need for more quantitative research) youth attempt suicide at higher rates than their heterosexual peers. Yes, the magnitude of that difference may decrease when more representative samples are studied and when only attempts that are “serious” or “life-threatening” are considered. However, we should continue to focus attention and resources on creating socio-political pressure and demanding appropriate policy change that addresses this threat to the health and well-being of America’s youth.
Second, the goal of reducing the incidence of LGBT youth suicide would be even better served by researchers and activists focusing as well on the resilience factors that enable the majority of LGBT youth to be healthy and well-adjusted despite the anti-gay climate perpetrated by conservative religious political leaders and organizations. Caitlin Ryan’s research on family rejection is an excellent example of how we can identify critical factors that affect the health and well-being of LGBT youth and direct public policy and public education efforts accordingly.
Finally, in addition to focusing resources on creating long-term and large-scale social change, we need to concurrently support the growing number of programs and interventions that make it better for LGBT youth today. From Gay-Straight Alliances and other programs at schools that create community for LGBT youth to innovative efforts like the It Gets Better Project that connect youth to the millions of adults, gay and straight, who support them and have survived despite their own struggles, there are considerable opportunities to provide hope to youth who are struggling and continued support to those who are thriving.
We must never forget the youth whose lives were taken far too soon – their stories inspire us to work even harder. Concurrently, a more holistic approach to understanding the lives of LGBT youth will only enhance our efforts to support and protect them.
Beware: Journalists Reporting on Science
September 23rd, 2010
You’ll be hearing our opponents trumpet a new article from the UK Guardian. The headline reads:
1.5% of Britons say they are gay or bisexual, ONS survey finds
The article messes things up pretty fast. Here’s the second paragraph:
The findings, based on interviews with more than 450,000 people – the biggest pool of social data after the census – show that an estimated 481,000 people regard themselves as gay and a further 245,000 – mainly women – say they are bisexual.
And here’s the third:
The estimate puts Britain’s gay community at 1.5% of the total population – much lower than the most commonly used estimate of 5% to 7%, which was cited by ministers introducing civil partnership legislation and implied a non-heterosexual population of 3.5 million.
See the problem? The article assumes the percentage who say they are LGBT equals the percentage who are LGBT. Is that reasonable? No. One obvious objection is that some people (especially the elderly) aren’t willing to tell a stranger they’re gay. But the article is even sloppier than that. Here’s a snapshot of the data:
|Don’t know/refused to answer||2.8|
You see that? The study failed to identify the orientation of 3.8% of the population. There’s only one way to conclude, “The estimate puts Britain’s gay community at 1.5% of the total population,” and that’s to assume none of these people are gay, lesbian, or bi.
Is that reasonable? Given the way straight people flaunt their sexual orientation, and given the continued existence of the closet, it makes sense to wonder if a good chunk of that 3.8% is gay, lesbian, or bi (not to mention transgender).
Unfortunately, based on my experience with the right wing echo chamber, our opponents will repeat the 1.5% figure over and over until they’ve forgotten where it comes from. But that makes sense. Sloppy numbers are the best defense of sloppy thinking.
Slim Majority of Americans Support Same-Sex Marriage
September 20th, 2010
A new AP-GfK poll (PDF: 176KB/24 pages) shows that perhaps a very slim majority of Americans (52%-46%) believe that “the Federal Government (should) give legal recognition to marriages between couples of the same sex.” I score that as being a potentially slim majority because the poll’s margin of error is +/-4.5%. We’ve seen similar polls before, only to see those slim majorities vanish at the voting booths, so take this finding for what it’s worth.
Further, Americans agree (58%-38%) that “couples of the same sex (should) be entitled to the same government benefits as married couples of the opposite sex.”
Other interesting findings: A majority (56%-41%) agree that “Judges should interpret laws broadly, taking into account the broader interests of the nation,” instead of a more narrow interpretation of the law. Also, a significant majority (62%-35%) agree that “The rights of everyone should be protected, even when that means saying no to something the majority of people want to happen.” Both of these have important implications for the Prop 8 ruling in California.
And one last finding worth noting: Only 41% of Americans are confident in “Independent or citizen media, such as online blogs.” Of the 18 institutions Americans were asked to rank spanning governemnt, media, the military, religion and banks (yes, banks!), bloggers came in dead last.
Update: Timothy already covered this poll last Friday, drawing a similarly skeptical conclusion as I did on the first question. Unfortunately, this was a long weekend for me and I forgot he already covered it. No wonder Americans look askance at bloggers.
The Trend Toward Acceptance
August 12th, 2010
Prompted by yesterday’s CNN Poll, Nate Silver looked at public polls since 1988, and believes we are experiencing an accelerated trend toward broad acceptance of same-sex marriage:
One caveat is that LOESS regression tends to be fairly sensitive on the endpoints, and so yesterday’s CNN survey, which showed the pro-gay marriage position leading 50.5-48.5, makes a fair amount of difference. But even if we ignored that survey, support for gay marriage would instead be in the range of 45-46 percent (and opposition between 51-52 percent): that would reflect acceleration in the rate of support for gay marriage, about a 4-point gain over the past 16 months, faster than the long-term rate of increase, which has been between 1 and 1.5 points per year.
The More They Get To Know Us…
May 25th, 2010
…the better these numbers look:
According to a recent Gallup poll, the percentage of Americans who believe that gays and lesbians are “morally acceptable” is at an all-time high. At 52% viewing gay people favorably against 43% disproving, this is the first time that a clear majority of Americans see gays as good since this polling began in 2001. And in even better news, this year marks the first time in which that spread blew the doors off the ±4% margin of error.
LA Times Poll: Californians support marriage equality
April 6th, 2010
Q.46 Do you think that same-sex couples should be allowed to become legally married in the state of
Yes, strongly ………………………………………………………………40
Yes, not so strongly …………………………………………………..12
No, not so strongly……………………………………………………….8
Total No ……………………………………………………………………..40
The poll claims a margin or error of about 2.6%, but in looking at the demographics, I’m not sure that this poll is exactly representative.
Bogus “American College of Pediatricians” distributes deliberately fraudulent anti-gay propaganda to schools
April 5th, 2010
In 2002, the American Academy of Pediatrics, an association of 60,000 pediatricians, voted to adopt a position in support of gay parents. Six pediatricians who opposed this policy on religious grounds rallied like-minded friends and, on October 19th, about 15 people founded the American College of Pediatricians. It would be accurate to describe this organization as a vehicle through which a small minority of anti-gay doctors advocate in opposition to gay rights, abortion rights, and euthanasia.
According to Focus on the Family’s CitizenLink, at the end of March, the ACP sent out a letter to school superintendents.
They don’t say how many schools received the letter, but even one is too many.
Despite the name, ACP is not a institute of higher learning. Nor is it a professional organization for pediatricians. This is an advocacy group dedicated to political goals which is using an authoritative sounding name to fool the unaware.
Yes, their officers and their board are all pediatricians (usually older gentlemen in the South), but their “Pediatric Psychosocial Development Committee” reads like a members roster of the virulently anti-gay National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH).
- Dean Byrd – past president of NARTH and influential in Evergreen, the Mormon ex-gay group
- Joe Nicolosi – the founder of NARTH and current board member
- George Rekers – NARTH board member, Christian reconstructionist, and closely associated with Paul Cameron. Rekers once recommended banning Native Americans from being able to adopt.
- Arthur Goldberg – founder of Jewish ex-gay group, JONAH. Goldberg was recently removed from NARTH’s board when he was exposed as a con-man with a felony record.
- Rick Fitzgibbons – member of NARTH’s Scientific Advisory Committee and the Catholic Medical Association.
- Trayce Hansen – an inexperienced psychologist who has written anti-gay opinion pieces and testified (disastrously) on the side of an ex-lesbian who was trying to deny her ex-partner access to their children.
- John Raney – The only information we have on Raney is that he was part of the Editorial/Review board for Paul Cameron’s self-promoting (single issue) Empirical Journal of Same-Sex Sexual Behavior.
The connections don’t stop at the committee level. One ACP board member, Quentin Van Meter, was a featured speaker at the 2009 NARTH Convention. And Michelle Cretella, a real nasty piece of work, sits on both boards. She is also listed as the “chair of the Sexuality Committee, American College of Pediatricians”.
With connections this deep to an organization whose primary function is to generate anti-gay propaganda masquerading as scientific research, it should not be too surprising that the American College of Pediatrics uses the same tactics. Their letter to the schools is rife with lies, misrepresentations, distortions and outright fraud. In fact, there is little there that has any distant relationship to truth.
The letter – and the website it directs the reader – makes a number of claims. And the ACP has adopted Paul Cameron’s tactic of lengthy footnotes. But, as with Cameron, the supporting documents do not support the claims. Let’s take a look at the first three.
Homosexuality is not a genetically-determined, unchangeable trait.
Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the Genome Project, has stated that while homosexuality may be genetically influenced, it is “… not hardwired by DNA, and (that) whatever genes are involved represent predispositions, not predetermination[s].” He also states that “…the prominent role of individual free will choices have a profound effect on us.”
The evidence we have at present strongly supports the proposition that there are hereditary factors in male homosexuality — the observation that an identical twin of a male homosexual has approximately a 20% likelihood of also being gay points to this conclusion, since that is 10 times the population incidence. But the fact that the answer is not 100% also suggests that other factors besides DNA must be involved. That certainly doesn’t imply, however, that those other undefined factors are inherently alterable.
Misquoting once is perhaps an error in judgment. Repeating the process after you have been refuted is fraud.
Homosexual attraction is determined by a combination of familial, environmental, social and biological influences. Inheritance of predisposing personality traits may play a role for some. Consequently, homosexual attraction is changeable.
Consequently? Oh please dear God don’t let our nation have school superintendents so stupid that they don’t immediately burst out laughing.
First, while we know that genetics plays a role for at least some gay men (there’s less study performed on women), we do not know whether the other contributing factors include family, environment (in utero, social, chemical, or other), or social. Interestingly, other than a book by a NARTH member, all other footnoted sources were support for the role that genetics plays.
But as for “changeable”, the evidence suggests quite the opposite. And to find that orientation has a number of contributing factors does not “consequently” support that claim.
This is simply bait and switch deception.
Most students (over 85%) with same-sex attractions will ultimately adopt a heterosexual orientation if not otherwise encouraged. Most questioning students are experiencing temporary sexual confusion or are involved in experimentation.
Rigorous studies demonstrate that most adolescents who initially experience same-sex attraction, or are sexually confused, no longer experience such attractions by age 25. In one study, as many as 26% of 12-year-olds reported being uncertain of their sexual orientation, yet only 2-3% of adults actually identify themselves as homosexual. Therefore, the majority of sexually-questioning youth ultimately adopt a heterosexual identity.
Except that the source they use for the “26% of 12-year-olds” doesn’t quite say what they pretend.
From the article:
The percentage of students who were “unsure” about orientation steadily declined with age from 25.9% in 12-year-old persons to 5% in 18-year-old students.
But what does this “uncertainty” mean? Are these same-sex attracted kids?
The percentage of students reporting predominantly homosexual attractions steadily increased with age, while the proportion with bisexual or predominantly heterosexual attractions decreased.
In fact, only 2.2% of 12-year-olds reported predominantly homosexual attractions.
These kids were not “sexually-questioning youth”. And they were not “students with same-sex attractions”. Rather, these 12-year-olds were not yet “sure” about their sexual orientation. Frankly, they probably weren’t exactly sure what it all meant. But they did figure it out over time.
And were they “involved in experimentation”? Not according to this study.
Overall, 1% of respondents reported some homosexual experience; and 52%, some heterosexual experience… For males, but not females, the prevalence of reported homosexual experiences increased with age, from 0.4% at 12 years to a peak of 2.8% at 18.”
Everything that ACP claimed is refuted by going to the source they credit. This isn’t a “perspective” or a “way of reading the data”. This is a lie.
They go on with the usual litany of lies. You know, that homosexuality is a dangerous lifestyle wrought with physical and mental illness caused by sexual abuse. But therapy has proven to be effective in curing homosexuality (and behavior is a choice anyway) so you shouldn’t allow support groups on campus (they aren’t good for kids). It’s pretty evil stuff.
No school should rely on this bogus organization for truth. They have none to offer.
But what they have done goes beyond opinion. It goes beyond faith or values or religion. This was a deliberate attempt to deceive. It twisted the work of legitimate researchers and sought to establish positions in educational institutions that are the opposite of what their research found to be best for the kids. If school superintendents rely on this information, it could harm the lives of children.
The board of directors of this organization are licensed medical doctors. They are pediatricians. It is unconscionable what they have done.
Majority of Californians support marriage equality
March 25th, 2010
For the first time, the PPIC Statewide Survey reports that a majority of Californians support same-sex marriage. 2,002 Californians were surveyed and there is a +/- 2% margin of error.
Participants were asked
“do you favor or oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to be legally married?”
5% I don’t know
Various demographics supported marriage equality:
This polling suggests a 6% increase in support within the past year, which is quite significant. The survey does not report what contributed to this change in thinking and it is difficult to identify what may have happened since last March that could have led to the change.
However, if I were to guess, I think it is possible that there were two counter-acting public responses to the anti-8 rallies, marches, and protests. It may be that these public demonstrations caused some voters to realize for the first time that the gay community was upset and angry about being denied equality and caused them to consider that anti-gay votes are discriminatory. There may also have been some backlash from some voters who felt that the gay community was behaving lawlessly.
Over the past year the public image of angry marches may have diminished and those upset by it may have become calmer, while the concept of inequality and unfairness raised by the marches may have germinated and resulted in increased support, yielding a net increase. This is, of course, only speculation.
Additionally, the PPIC confirmed that Californians strongly favor allowing gay men and women to serve openly in the military. A total of 75% (and a majority in every demographic) agreed.
New military survey on DADT
March 17th, 2010
In February, Lake Research Partners and American Viewpoint, on behalf of Vet Voice Foundation, conducted a telephone survey of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
The methodology appears to be fairly decent, though the margin of error is a bit large.
Lake Research Partners and American Viewpoint designed and administered this survey, which was conducted by phone using professional interviewers. The survey reached a total of 510 veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq) and/or Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan). The survey was conducted February 8-23, 2010. Telephone numbers for the sample were generated randomly from a military sample and a radius sample drawn from military bases in the United States. The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 4.4 percentage points.
But I do have some concerns about the demographic breakdown. As best I can tell, it does not appear to be representative of the military as a whole. It appears to over-represent white, male, and more highly educated personnel than what I’ve been able to identify as reflective of those serving. Nevertheless, it adds to the conversation.
This sample was:
45% Republican (or leaning) v. 20% Democrat (or leaning)
19% High school education, with 44% college graduate or post graduate
36% evangelical Christian
69% white, 16% black
58% think there were gay people in their most recent unit
Of this sample,
- 60% agree and 29% disagree with “Being gay or lesbian has little bearing on a service member’s ability to perform their duties.” This may be skewed by two lead up questions asking about race and gender having bearing.
- 73% are comfortable (37% very) and 23% are uncomfortable (7% very) “in the presence of gays and lesbians?”
- 34% favor (24% very); 36% oppose (29% very); and 30% aren’t sure about “allowing openly gay men and lesbian women to serve in the military”
- When asked to “describe your personal opinion if gay and lesbian people were allowed to serve openly in the military”, 73% said it would be acceptable (though 31% wouldn’t like it) and 25% said it would be unacceptable.
They also measured by age and found that “younger veterans lean toward favoring allowing gay men and lesbian women to serve openly while older veterans lean toward opposing the change, but there is little intensity in either direction.”
While I am not sure that this accurately reflects the views of our military, it does add to the growing recognition that soldiers care a lot less about the sexual orientation of their fellows than do Senators or Pentagon officials.
Fact Checking the Family “Research” Council Straw Man Argument
March 13th, 2010
In response to a Washington Post article about the economic benefits of same-sex marriage in DC, the Family Research Council (FRC) provides a classic example of how right-wing organizations manipulate data and statistics to suit their anti-LGBT positions.
Here’s the quote:
When same-sex weddings kicked off in D.C. yesterday, the city wasn’t seeing anything but dollar signs. In an absurd article in today’s Washington Post, reporters tried to argue that counterfeit marriage could be the economic salvation of the city’s economy. In a region with 12% unemployment, local officials claim that redefining marriage “will create 700 jobs and contribute $52.2 million over three years to the local economy.”
Not so fast, says FRC. The last census counted 3,678 same-sex partner homes in D.C. Assuming that number has stayed roughly the same, then the 150 who applied for marriage licenses yesterday would amount to a whopping four percent of the local homosexual population–hardly the stuff of economic recovery. For the Post’s $52.2 million projection to come true, all 3,678 of those D.C. couples would have to get married and spend over $14,000 per wedding. (I don’t know about you, but my wife and I spent a LOT less!) These “marriages” (which have yet to meet financial expectations in other states) may make a fast buck in the short term, but they will do nothing but drain the economy down the road. Consider the massive health care expenses incurred by taxpayers every year to cope with the diseases spread by homosexual behavior. According to the Kaiser Foundation, federal funding grew to more than $18 billion in 2004 to deal with the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Over half of all U.S. infections are in men having sex with men! That means taxpayers spend roughly $10 billion a year treating the diseases caused by a behavior celebrated in same-sex “marriage.” So much for economic development!
Not so fast FRC.
Yes, according to the Washington, DC Census Snapshot published by the Williams Institute, there are an estimated 3,678 same-sex couple households in the district, and the Associate Press did report that 150 same-sex couples applied for licenses on the first day same-sex marriage became legal there. This is about all that is factually correct in FRC’s statement.
FRC’s claim that the 150 couples represent “four percent of the local homosexual population” is a classic manipulation used by the religious right and discredited “researchers” like Paul Cameron. They take an estimate of one portion of a minority population and pretend that it is generalizeable to the population as a whole. In this case, the number of same-sex couple households willing to self-identify in the Census is not equivalent to the total population of lesbian, gay, or bisexual DC residents, which according to the Williams Institute is approximately 33,000.
Even more importantly, it is laughable for FRC to base its argument on the number of couples who applied for licenses on the first day. The Washington Post article references another Williams Institute report, which estimates that 2,000 same-sex couple in DC would marry over the next three years. In addition, another 12,500 couples are expected to come from out of state to get married. This is a more complete picture of the estimates used to create the projection of 700 new jobs and $52.2 million in revenue, but FRC simply ignores this information.
Where to begin with FRC’s last argument about same-sex marriage being a long-term drain on the economy because of “diseases spread by homosexual behavior?”
We could cite CDC data on transmission rates caused by “heterosexual behavior.” We could also estimate federal funding spent on prevention efforts that address the damage caused by social, and familial environments created by FRC. As they say, so much for economic development!
However, it would be a waste of time to feed into FRC’s “straw man” arguments.
They have no interest in examining real facts. Nor do they see the folly in their position against allowing same-sex couples access to an institution that fosters monogamy as well as mutual caring and support. As so many articles and special reports on Box Turtle Bulletin have illustrated, there is no place for scientifically supported facts in the anti-gay playbook.
The alarmist and misleading new headlines about HIV transmission
March 12th, 2010
The Centers for Disease Control has issued a “new look at disproportionate impact of HIV and syphilis among U.S. gay and bisexual men”. And this “new look” is quite alarming:
The data, presented at CDC’s 2010 National STD Prevention Conference, finds that the rate of new HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men (MSM) is more than 44 times that of other men and more than 40 times that of women.
That certainly sounds frightening. And it lends itself easily to anti-gay activist who argue that gay men and women do not deserve equal rights under the law because gay men are crawling with disease. (Iowa Independent)
Homosexual activity is “more dangerous for individuals who engage in it than is smoking,” and because of this, state lawmakers need to pass a constitutional amendment overturning last year’s Iowa Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, according to Iowa Family Policy Center President Chuck Hurley.
Naturally, anti-gay activists like Hurley fail to distinguish between “individuals who engage in homosexual activity” and individuals who engage in unsafe sex. And, having only the vaguest of notions about those same-sex couples who marry, he leaps at a conclusion that is out of his reach.’
Unsafe sex significantly increases the odds of seroconverting. And considering that the CDC lumps all men who have sex with men (MSM) together regardless of their relationship status or sexual practices, single gay men who whoop it up sans condom with a stranger tonight have a FAR MORE than 44 times likelihood of becoming HIV positive than does a heterosexual dude that does the same. Which is one reason we should encourage relationships and responsible sex.
But setting aside the lunacy of opposing committed relationships so as to stop promiscuous behavior, let’s look at the numbers themselves. And let’s consider the responsibility of the CDC and those who use their statistics to report them in a way that is meaningful and useful rather than pointlessly frightening.
Yes, “44 times that of other men” is scary. But what does it mean?
For that we have to look at the following paragraphs.
The range was 522-989 cases of new HIV diagnoses per 100,000 MSM vs. 12 per 100,000 other men and 13 per 100,000 women.
The rate of primary and secondary syphilis among MSM is more than 46 times that of other men and more than 71 times that of women, the analysis says. The range was 91-173 cases per 100,000 MSM vs. 2 per 100,000 other men and 1 per 100,000 women.
Unpacking the medical language, this is what we find:
There were about 33,750 new cases of HIV infection in 2007. Assuming that gay/bi men make up about 4% of the population, this number is about three quarters of one percent (0.75%) of all gay/bi men.
For syphilis, the number is about 5,900 cases and an infection rate of about one tenth of one percent (0.13%).
Previous analysis suggests that about 12% of all gay/bi men are currently living with HIV. As syphilis is treatable, the total number of gay men living with syphilis is less easy to determine.
Further, if we wish to be credible, we have to recognize that the gay community is not homogeneous. HIV and syphilis infections impact certain demographics far more than others. Factors such as race, location, education, and self-worth can have almost as much a factor on one’s likelihood to contract HIV as sexual orientation.
Too often we can read alarming headlines and think, “why fight it, it’s inevitable.” This isn’t true. Most gay men don’t have HIV and never will. And while these frightening statistics can remind us to be careful, they should be taken in perspective.
When we hear “HIV diagnoses… 44 times that of other men” or “2000 times higher than repeat blood donors”, we have to remind ourselves to step back and take a better look at the numbers. We need to recall that the purpose of information of this sort is to fight the virus, not the people who are infected. And we need to understand that we each are individual and not a statistic.
CBS News agrees that how you phrase the question on DADT determines the answer
February 11th, 2010
Yesterday I took Peter Brown and the Quinnipiac poll to task for phrasing questions in a way that were likely to result in less-supportive positions on the open service of gay men and women in the military. Now CBS News has looked at polling and has concluded that simply using “homosexuals” instead of “gays and lesbians” can significantly impact the results.
I’m now going to grant Brown a little slack on what I believe was very poorly worded questioning and shoddy question order practices. At least he didn’t degrade his results by using “homosexuals”.
Baptist Press jumps on the “lack of gay monogamy” bandwagon
February 10th, 2010
As expected, the irresponsible coverage of SF State University’s gay couples study by the New York Times continues to be trumpeted on anti-gay media. Today the Baptist Press picked up the story and ran with
Study showing lack of gay monogamy could impact nation’s marriage debate
About half of all male homosexual couples have sex outside of the relationship with the approval of the partner, according to a new study out of San Francisco that some say should have a dramatic impact on the nation’s debate over “gay marriage.”
Anti-gay activists are ready and willing to extrapolate from “couples” to “gay marriage” without even blushing.
“The study demonstrates clearly what we’ve been arguing: That gays bring a different definition to marriage,” Glenn T. Stanton, a sociologist who is the director for family formation studies at Focus on the Family, told Baptist Press. “And it’s not just a different definition that male and female become optional, but that monogamy becomes optional as well. They are coming into marriage with a wholly different view of marriage than anybody has — left, right, conservative, liberal…. They come in with that understanding of openness. These are people who come into marriage with a wholly different and really radical definition of what marriage is about.”
You can bet Stanton will use this as his leading point in his debates from now on.
(The claims made about the study are false. It does not show that “half of all male homosexual couples have sex outside of the relationship with the approval of the partner”.)
Quinnipiac poll on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – ask a biased question, get a meaningless answer
February 10th, 2010
In the spring of 2002, Peter A. Brown assailed the mainstream media for being unfair. It was far too liberal and chuck full of bias.
So it is only fair, by Brown’s standards, to look and see if he has any bias in his writing and statements. For example, in 2007 when Brown warned that Democrats could be hurt by supporting gay rights or in 2009 when Brown claimed that reversing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell could have enormous political risks for President Obama was there possible bias in his position?
Vincent Rossmeier certainly seemed to think so when he reviewed two polls on same-sex marriage, one of which was a Brown led Quinnipiac poll. As Rossmeier noted, how you ask a question will effect the answer that you get.
And this may be particularly true with Quinnipiac’s latest poll on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Here is how Peter Brown is selling the results:
Although on the surface the idea of ending “don’t ask, don’t tell” is a lot more popular with the American people than it was in 1993, it remains controversial despite the polling numbers.
Even though Mr. Obama now has the Pentagon brass on his side, a fight over allowing gays to serve openly will pit the president against conservatives and other former military leaders. They will argue that Mr. Obama, who never served in the armed forces, is trying to impose his views on the guys and gals in the trenches.
When Americans are asked about some of the details that might be involved with ending the current policy, they are somewhat less supportive of accommodating open homosexuals into the armed forces.
And Brown is right in that the results of his poll can be viewed in such a way as to find “controversy” about “accommodating open homosexuals”. But to get that “controversy”, the Quinnipiac had to word questions in a way that are hard to view as anything other than advocacy and push polling.
The Pentagon, which backed the change in congressional hearings last week, is studying several matters dealing with how to accommodate gays should the change be made. And on those questions the numbers are different than on the basic question.
Opponents of changing the law have long said that support for allowing gays to serve openly would drop once the American public understood some of the changes that might accompany it.
For instance, there is solid public support, 54%-38%, for restrictions on gay service personnel from showing their sexual orientation while on the job. Among military families, that ratio is 59%-33%.
There is also plurality opposition, 50%-43% for the Pentagon providing for the domestic partners of gay soldiers and sailors as they do for the spouses of straight service people. And by a narrow 46%-45%, voters don’t think that heterosexual personnel should be required to share quarters with gays.
Really? I don’t think so.
First let’s look at how the poll is structured:
Questions 1 through 5 ask about demographics. OK so far.
Then questions 6 through 19 ask about opinions as to how President Obama is doing on foreign policy, in Afghanistan, whether we should be in Afghanistan, etc. The next four questions are about terrorism and whether foreign terrorists should be given civil rights, and the fears about the Christmas Day attacker.
Now that the respondent is warmed up on the fears and drama of our dangers and the uncertainties of military service, comes the questions about gays in the military. We are not provided with questions 24 through 31, but eventually along came
32. Federal law currently prohibits openly gay men and women from serving in the military. Do you think this law should be repealed or not?
After that buildup, it wouldn’t be surprising to find that the answer was “No”. But even after reminding voters that they aren’t happy with Obama’s treatment of terrorists and bombers, 57% said the ban should be repealed (though 12% less than Gallup found eight months ago). Then 66% agreed that the currently policy is discrimination, 65% said that allowing gay troops would not not be divisive or hurt the ability of troops to fight effectively (despite the leading wording of the question), and virtually everyone agreed that the military should not aggressively pursue those revealed by a third party.
But then came Peter Brown’s “gotcha” questions:
36. Do you think gay military personnel should face any restrictions on exhibiting their sexual orientation on the job or not?
I don’t even know what that means. Any restrictions?
Sure. Maybe. I guess whatever restrictions that apply to other personnel.
A better question might be: 36. Do you think gay military personnel should face the same restrictions on sexual expression as are currently applied to other service personnel or should they face additional restrictions?
37. Do you think the Pentagon should be responsible to provide for the domestic partners of gay personnel or not?
The Pentagon should be responsible?
The bias in that question is blatant. Obvious. Glaring.
Why didn’t Quinnipiac ask, “37. Should the domestic partners of gay personnel receive the same benefits as the spouses of heterosexual personnel or not?” Wouldn’t that have been a less biased question, especially since he falsely claims that this is what the results said? It might have received a mostly “not” response, but it would not have the built-in bias that Brown’s wording favored.
38. Do you think heterosexual military personnel should be required to share quarters with gay personnel or not?
Oooh, required to share!!
I guess this one could have been worse. Brown could have asked if wholesome God-fearing heterosexuals should be force to shower naked with avowed homosexual sex addicts. He could have used the phrase “bunk with” or talked about submarines.
But he did avoid the much more neutral “same housing” or “current quarters”. Ironically, while the military households surveyed were less likely to support the change, they did not oppose being “required to share quarters” any more than the population at large. Perhaps that’s because they know the housing realities and were not scared by Brown’s phrasing.
This poll adds little of real value to the conversation. We know that Americans support the change in policy across almost every demographic and Peter Brown’s efforts to try and downplay that support is of little consequence.
In fact, if there is one thing that Brown’s poll did tell us, it’s that the military families don’t buy the dog and pony show that anti-gays are using to scare Americans on this issue. Nor are they all “conservative young men who share the family values of Republicans”.
When asked about lifting the ban, Republicans in this poll were only 40% supportive as opposed to 48% in military households. And 44% of Republicans thought the change would be divisive while only 38% of military families agreed. This trend continued consistently.
And it also showed that if you want to manufacture “controversy” about “accommodating open homosexuals”, you can always use the highly biased polling methods of Peter A. Brown and Quinnipiac University.
No, the SF study did NOT illustrate that half of gay marriages are “open”
February 10th, 2010
One of the primary purposes of Box Turtle Bulletin is analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric. And perhaps the largest component of that is to review “studies” that relay astonishing “facts” about gay people and to determine whether they have any basis in fact.
Sometimes these are efforts conducted by anti-gay activists seeking to support their presumptions, but more often it is misrepresentation of legitimate work. One such misrepresentation has been making the rounds purporting to show that gay couples reject monogamy.
For several years, Sean Beougher and Colleen Hoff of the Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality at San Francisco State University have been looking sexual agreements among gay men. This interest was generated by incidences of HIV transmission within relationships and a desire to understand how sexual agreements relate to this phenomenon.
But analysis of investment of couples into agreements and how that correlates with adherence (which impacts transmission within relationships) doesn’t make sexy headlines. So when the New York Times’ Scott James reported on this study, he decided to talk about something else entirely:
Many Successful Gay Marriages Share an Open Secret
A study to be released next month is offering a rare glimpse inside gay relationships and reveals that monogamy is not a central feature for many. Some gay men and lesbians argue that, as a result, they have stronger, longer-lasting and more honest relationships. And while that may sound counterintuitive, some experts say boundary-challenging gay relationships represent an evolution in marriage — one that might point the way for the survival of the institution.
New research at San Francisco State University reveals just how common open relationships are among gay men and lesbians in the Bay Area. The Gay Couples Study has followed 556 male couples for three years — about 50 percent of those surveyed have sex outside their relationships, with the knowledge and approval of their partners.
The sensational (but as I’ll illustrate, flatly untrue) statement that monogamy is not a central feature for many gay relationships is exciting and sure to elicit conversation. But it just wasn’t defamatory enough for those who wish to portray gay people as sex-crazed and incapable of commitment.
Conservative NewsMax reported:
Study: Gay Marriage Involves More Outside Relationships
A federally-funded study by San Francisco State University that followed 556 local male couples for three years found that half “have sex outside their relationships, with the knowledge and approval of their partners,” according to The New York Times.
On its website, the Center describes the importance in conducting the study as revolving around the fact that “gay and bisexual men in relationships engage in substantially higher rates of unprotected” homosexual activity than do “single men with their casual partners.”
A commentary on GetReligion.org took the opportunity to say
I’m not sure if the description of the study’s findings is written up as well as it could be. If 50 percent of those surveyed have sex outside their primary relationship with the knowledge and approval of their partners, that’s an utterly fascinating, and newsworthy statistic. Still, I’m curious about the remaining half. What percentage of those surveyed have sex outside of their primary relationship but don’t have the knowledge and/or the approval of their partners? It seems like a key piece of information.
Certainly there’s at least one person in the world who thinks that sex with multiple partners is not the key to a successful marriage, right? And I’m not just talking about advocates of traditional marriage vows, or advocates of spousal fidelity.
The bottom line, though, is that this study breaks news. Really interesting and important news.
And even gay sites got on board with this notion with Edge Magazine running the headline, Surprise! Lots of Gay Marriages Are ’Open’, and Dan Savage declaring Half of All Gay Couples Non-Monogamous (though Edge did note some caveats).
But those who delight in denouncing the hedonistic sex-driven homosexuals and their non-monogamous marriages share a problem with those gays who may champion the abandonment of the heteronormative demands of conformity and spearhead the evolution of marriage: this study tells us nothing whatsoever about gay marriage and little about monogamy within gay relationships as a whole.
In order for a study to report on the characteristics of a population, it must be representative of that population. If a study selects a convenience sample rather than a statistically valid sample, the non-representative demographics of the sample cannot be presented as a “finding”.
For example, if I went to Dodger Stadium, i might find a sample which was useful to tell me whether Dodger fans think Dodger Dogs taste better than garlic fries, but I could not claim that my sample proves that 80% of all baseball fans support the Dodgers. That is simply a non-representative demographic of my sample, not a finding of my study.
So to see if this study supported the claim that half of gay marriages are open (non-monogamous), I contacted the study authors and obtained previously published information that reveals the sample methodology. I do not have all of the data on which the final study is to be reported, but the sampling methodology was consistent.
Let’s look at how the sample for this study was constructed and how that differs from the population as a whole.
Definition of relationship:
To be eligible participants had to have been at least 18 years old, have been in a their current relationship for at least 3 months, have knowledge of their own and their partner’s HIV status, be fluent in English, and be residents of the San Francisco Bay Area.
All were men. Contrary to James’ breathless reporting (and the example with which he started his article) the researchers said nothing about lesbian relationships. They were excluded.
The study was conducted in several phases and the details of each is not available, but the sampling methods were consistent. The breakout for Study 2 found that only 13% of participants identified as being married (perhaps the 2004 San Francisco variety) and only a third had made any sort of public commitment.
It is ludicrous to suggest that a study which includes three month long relationships without any public commitment is informative about marriage. The average length of the relationships was 7 years (more or less) but the median length was about three years earlier (half of the relationships were less than 4 years in length), suggesting that there were a few very long relationships and many much shorter ones.
The way this study has been reported, it has been suggested that gay relationships are more likely to be open than straight relationships, but no comparison was made and I’m not aware of any study that looked at the level of fidelity in three-month-old heterosexual relationship and pretended that they were representative of straights as a whole.
As the research was not applied separately by relationship structure or length, this study says nothing about gay marriage or even domestic partnerships. And any use of the results which makes (or even implies) a comparison to straight relationships is bogus and irresponsible.
Location and social perspective of the population sampled:
It must be emphasized that gay men living in the San Francisco Bay Area are not representative of gay men as a whole. In fact, it would be difficult to identify a group of gay men less representative of the US gay population.
Significant factors in the consideration of monogamy surely must include attitudes about sexuality and whether one’s general approach is more conservative or liberal overall. Additionally, the perspectives of the community in which one lives most certainly effect the values that one adopts.
While I cannot point to a study and state with certainty that those who view themselves as “conservative” are more likely or less likely to value monogamy, I can state that selecting only participants from the SF area sharply skews the sample towards those who identify as “liberal” and significantly under-represents a sizable segment of the gay community.
The means of reaching participants:
Active and passive recruitment strategies were implemented in community settings. Field research staff reached potential participants either by handing out study postcards or placing flyers and postcards in gay-identified social venues such as bars, clubs, and cafes, as well as in community health and HIV and AIDS service organizations and by placing advertisements in gay-oriented publications, Web sites, and listserves.
Recruitment materials contained text describing the study as “one which examines important relationship dynamics associated with HIV.” Recruitment strategies were designed to produce a diverse sample in terms of race or ethnicity as well as serostatus.
Recruitment in bars and clubs and on listserves skews the sample towards those who are actively seeking sexual connections. While some gay people go to bars solely for social interaction, monogamous couples that do not regularly go to bars or look at Craigslist were far less likely to hear of this study.
Additionally, this study was more likely to attract those who were interested in how relationship dynamics impact HIV transmission. I think it is a reasonable assumption that, on average, couples committed to monogamy might not have the same interest level as those who have open relationships.
The demographics of the sample:
For two of the studies, 41% of the participants were HIV positive (Study 3 had 32%). While this may be advantageous to a study which seeks to look at sexual agreements, it is not representative of the population of San Francisco, and has almost no reflection of the gay male population at large. Only about 12% of gay men in the United States are infected with HIV.
While this is undoubtedly useful for looking at variances of agreement structure among sero-concordant and discordant couples, claiming a blended rate of monogamy as though it were reflective of the community would be bad science.
This study found that couples which were both HIV negative were far more likely to establish monogamy than those in which one or both parties were positive. So by significantly over-representing HIV positive participants, the percentage who embrace monogamy were skewed downward.
About half of the sample had a bachelors degree (more than 20% had a post-graduate degree). Yet only about 43% were employed full time, with another 10-12% employed part time and 9-12% self employed. I don’t know whether there is a correlation between employment and valuing monogamy, but I think that we can all agree that 35% unemployment is not reflective of gay men as a whole, especially in the mid 2000′s when the participants were questioned.
About half of the men made less than $30,000 per year, with only a quarter making over $60,000. The average salary for San Francisco Bay Area jobs is about $65,000 and it is absurd to assume that gay men make, on average, less than half of their heterosexual counterparts.
I do not have adequate research at hand to correlate gay male monogamy (or fidelity) with employment or economic position. However, I believe that social position can influence relationship structure so it is a reasonable assumption that a study which is skewed towards a lower economic status may not accurately reflect the extent to which gay male couples as a whole value monogamy.
The Gay Couples Study does reveal valuable information about the formation of sexual agreements among gay couples. For example, it reveals that gay men are almost universally talk about monogamy and fidelity and define the rules of their relationship. This seems true regardless of the structure, length, or investment into the relationship. And research into breached agreements and how it impacts HIV transmission is essential to targeting prevention efforts.
But in my opinion, Scott James’ statement that “New research at San Francisco State University reveals just how common open relationships are among gay men and lesbians in the Bay Area” may be among the most irresponsible reporting I’ve ever seen. The study says nothing whatsoever about lesbians and it tells us little about “just how common open relationships are” among anyone. It’s pure sensationalism and shoddy journalism.
But the real culprits are those who saw this study and decided that it says something about, for example, gay couples marrying in Iowa or New Hampshire. This was either lazy response or a deliberate attempt to fraudulently demonize gay couples for political gain.
In short, those reporting on this study got it wrong. If there is any story here, it would be that a study of San Francisco bay area gay male couples, a sample which was highly skewed to include many participants who are less likely to value monogamy and which defined “couples” to include those who have been dating as little as three months, still found that half of them set monogamy as the agreement for their relationship.