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When the Political Became the Personal, Gay Rights Triumphed

How prosperity, AIDS, and pop culture changed people's minds

The Path to Gay Rights: How Activism and Coming Out Changed Public Opinion, by Jeremiah J. Garretson, NYU Press, 352 pages, $35

NYU PressNYU Press"The single most important thing you can do politically for gay rights is to come out," declared Barney Frank, who in 1987 was the first member of Congress to exit the closet voluntarily. "Not to write a letter to your congressman, but to come out."

How did public support for the legality of same-sex relations double from the 1980s to today? How did support for both gay marriage and gay adoption grow by more than 20 percent in just two decades? Jeremiah Garretson tackles these questions in The Path to Gay Rights, a scholarly analysis of the LGBT movement's success. The book's narrative is hopeful—it's a story of how countless personal interactions and individual changes of heart, not elite opinion or legal mandates, drove one of the most remarkable attitudinal shifts in modern history.

Garretson traces the history of the gay liberation movement from the aftermath of World War II until the present. His book covers the struggles of the Mattachine Society, one of the first modern "homophile" organizations, in opposing the "lavender scare" of the early Cold War years—a moral panic that culminated in the government barring homosexuals from federal employment on the grounds that they posed a special security risk due to blackmail concerns. It shows how gay and lesbian enclaves stabilized in certain urban centers, such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York, in the wake of the Stonewall riots. It looks at the social conservative backlash led by the singer Anita Bryant and other evangelical activists, and it documents how the LGBT community forged a sense of common identity in opposition to the persecution. (In the 1970s, for instance, gay bars boycotted Florida oranges and took the orange juice–based screwdriver off their menus because Bryant was a brand ambassador for the state's Citrus Commission.)

Building a community helped gays and lesbians win support from the politicians who represented their enclaves, albeit at a still mostly local level. An important early victory came in 1978, with the defeat of Proposition 6, the "Briggs Initiative," which would have barred gays and lesbians from teaching in California public schools. Meanwhile, nonpolitical gay- and lesbian-themed organizations—from swim clubs to dental referral services—helped integrate more people into the community.

All this was the starting point for the LGBT movement. But Garretson argues that the tipping point was, paradoxically, the community's darkest period: the AIDS crisis, which pushed people out of the closet and into activism in unprecedented numbers.

Garretson arrives at this conclusion by way of a theory of "affective liberalization." A person's view of a social group, he argues, is influenced far more by his or her emotional reaction, or affect, than by facts and logic. As the AIDS crisis propelled more gays and lesbians to live openly, the proportion of Americans who were aware that they knew a member of that group ballooned. A personal connection with a homosexual colleague, friend, or family member—or even just seeing a recurring LGBT character on mainstream TV—helped build sympathy over time.

One prevailing misconception among political scientists is that politicians voicing more tolerant views on LGBT issues drove changing attitudes among the general public. Garretson uses decades of survey data and dozens of regression analyses to show that, in fact, greater exposure to gays and lesbians led to more positive attitudes regardless of how much attention a person paid to so-called elite opinion makers.

Garretson also makes a strong case that younger generations are more supportive of gay rights not because of their youth per se but because there were more "out" people around them during their formative years. While older Americans have grown increasingly sympathetic to this population as they've come to know gays and lesbians, that new affect still clashes with pre-existing notions forged during the decades when most LGBT people stayed in the closet. Younger Americans are less likely to have such hangups.

That doesn't mean politics didn't matter. Garretson argues that activism was another important piece of the puzzle. Groups like the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) shifted the media narrative and put pressure on government, forcing a national debate around LGBT issues that would not have otherwise materialized.

ACT UP and similar groups pressured The New York Times to print more information on the AIDS crisis and staged "die-ins" at the Food and Drug Administration to protest the over-regulation that lengthened approval times for anti-AIDS drugs. Groups such as Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York coupled these external demands with efforts to spread information that would help prevent HIV transmission. For the first time, the general public saw the gay movement not just as victims of persecution but as a community of real people demanding their rights and working to take care of their friends and loved ones during difficult times.

In 1992, presidential candidate Bill Clinton addressed a crowd of LGBT supporters at a campaign rally in Hollywood and promised to support a variety of causes important to them. He dared to attend that event, and broke new ground in doing so, because gays and lesbians had built a group consciousness through their AIDS activism. They had organized enough to become a serious political bloc with something to offer a national coalition. Turning out in large numbers meant politicians had a reason to compete for LGBT support in primaries. Debates over the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy and the Defense of Marriage Act continued the conversation, prompting more people to come out in a positive feedback loop of increasing public support.

The Path to Gay Rights thus lends credence to bottom-up models of social change, showing that the spontaneous order of thousands of individual interactions created the conditions for elites to finally support gay rights, not the other way around. Consciously or not, the book also echoes public choice theory, which argues that political leaders don't alter their stances simply because a large number of their constituents favor something. Lawmakers didn't automatically change their tune as baseline support for the gay and lesbian community rose in many parts of the country. It took incessant pressure by LGBT interest groups to pressure politicians to take the risk of supporting the protections they sought. For gays and lesbians, as for any other group, nothing moves in politics that isn't pushed.

The Path to Gay Rights doesn't limit its scope to the United States. Garretson finds that the gap in support for gay rights is far greater between liberal and illiberal countries (broadly speaking) than between the left and right in the West. And liberalization is linked to a country's wealth. People who were born in 1920 have similarly negative views on homosexuality regardless of where they live—but citizens of countries with higher per capita GDPs express significantly more positive views the closer they were born to the present. Similar results appear in countries with greater numbers of influential political parties, and these effects are even stronger in countries with freer presses and more TVs per capita.

Building person-to-person empathy was central to LGBT progress. Perhaps that's how freedom will advance elsewhere as well.

Photo Credit: NYU Press

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  • Cy||

    Good morning you filthy animals!

  • Derp-o-Matic 6000||

    One prevailing misconception among political scientists is that politicians voicing more tolerant views on LGBT issues drove changing attitudes among the general public.

    Seriously? There are people that actually believe that? Anyone alive during the last ten years knows that politicians were among the last people to voice tolerant views on LGBLT issues, waiting until such positions had very strong support with constituents.

  • Brian||

    They'll be glad to take credit for their long overdue evolution.

  • JoeBlow123||

    I too will start calling it LGBLT. Or perhaps LGBLTQI.

  • El Oso||

    I am for the rights of BLT consumers...

  • Tony||

    Isn't that the way it should work in a democracy? If politicians or even courts get too far ahead of the people it will simply be counterproductive.

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    Exactly: the government is supposed to fuck you in the ass, until they are compelled to let you fuck yourself in the air.

  • Derp-o-Matic 6000||

    1) A better approach would be for the government to just stay out of social issues entirely, but

    2) whether or not that's "the way it should work," I was responding to a passage that claimed "politicians voicing more tolerant views on LGBT issues drove changing attitudes among the general public." That is not even close to how things actually happened.

  • JesseAz||

    Liberals wouldn't have a platform without value signaling of social issues.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Conservatives wouldn't have a platform without old-timey bigotry, superstitious ignorance, and general backwardness.

    That is why social conservatives have been taking it from their betters for more than a half-century of American progress.

  • Nardz||

    R.A.L.K. wouldn't have a platform without his personal issues of psychotic intellectual insecurity

  • Jack Klompus Magic Ink||

    You're a boring, one-dimensional retarded twat.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Why call Anthony Comstock's book-burning bigots conservatives? Is this an attempt to insult British statesmen?

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Government can't stay out of "social issues" entirely, because "social issues" encompass things that are widely seen as appropriately illegal, such as pedophilia.

  • JesseAz||

    Which is why Obama was 10-20 years too early... he's such a visionary, decades ahead of the rest of the plebeians in America.

  • damikesc||

    Ironically, in SF, gay groups helped cause the disease to spread further by not working to try and deal with the problems that the bathhouses generated.

  • Shirley Knott||

    There were great fears that the government was going to track the affected population, leading to the usual results.
    This was not irrational.
    The culture was underground and held in contempt, at risk of legal oppression at all levels of government, as well as deeply at risk of personal attack from strangers, 'friends', and family.
    As one of my acquaintances pointed out, when comparing the Black civil rights movement with the various Gay Liberation movements, "Nobody got kicked out of their family for being Black."

  • Shirley Knott||

    [Yes, the whole 'who has been more oppressed' game is odious.]
    Those who insist that things (overall) are worse now, politically and culturally, than ever before are deeply, profoundly, ignorant of recent [ < 100 years] history.
    As deeply and profoundly ignorant as those who see politics as the solution rather than a major problem. Culture happens from the individual up, not from the government (or the church) down.

  • damikesc||

    If your concern is death, some people not liking you should be small potatoes.

    Interest groups have an annoying desire to make others fix their problems while they are asked to do NOTHING on their own to do so.

    Remember, the bath houses did nothing to me. I wasn't the one spreading an easily avoided "plague" through the random sex that was quite prevalent there. I wouldn't have been harmed if AIDS became a real-life plague as its impact on heterosexuals was always quite small.

    I had and still have no desire to see gays harmed. But if their own behavior is the cause of their problems, I fail to see how it is my issue or why I need to have any part in fixing it.

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    If your concern is death, some people not liking you should be small potatoes.

    Generally we potatoes are fairly easy going, so small, medium, or large, we probably like you just fine.

  • Shirley Knott||

    I was talking pre-AIDS.
    I was also speaking directly to the cultural context that led to bath houses and unrestrained promiscuity. Both of which pre-date AIDS by decades.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    By decade. Maybe by TWO decades. Not that the Gay subculture wasn't serially promiscuous (most sexual subcultures are) but it took a different form.

  • Imissbuckley||

    "Nobody got kicked out of their family for being Black"

    Well no, no one black gets kicked out of their probably black family for being black. Now if you were black in a white family back in the 60s, 50s, or earlier, well that was another story.

    Back in those days you didn't kicked out of a family for being black, you were prevented from joining a family for being black and if you had the misfortune of living in a state that banned interracial marriage you could be arrested.

    This why its stupid to play the who was oppressed more game, because someone can always bring up the historical counter.

  • Shirley Knott||

    And yet inter-racial marriages and inter-racial adoptions happened.
    I did note that the "who's been more oppressed" game is odious.
    It is a race to the bottom, with all participants wielding shovels.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    According to some identity zealots, if you speak ill of gay culture then you are a bigot. Nevermind that some gay culture like promiscuous anal sex spread the Aids epidemic like crazy.

  • Shirley Knott||

    In the context of the surrounding culture and legal environment, the choice was celibacy or promiscuity. The legal strictures, in particular, led to a set of sub-culture institutions that functioned to support, and depend on, promiscuity.
    Given what certainly seems to be a biological component of male-ness, promiscuity was inevitable.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    Bullshit. You can be promiscuous and still follow safe practices. There is a significant nihilistic subculture that wanted to possess and spread the disease. Willingly and enthusiastically, both as a fashion accessory and as a way to increase public support.
    I had a lesbian boss a few years ago, we had a lot of interesting talks about NYC in the nineties and early 2000s.

  • Shirley Knott||

    Those were late days in terms of the disease. It was a matter of much confusion, and some awfully bad research (to say nothing of awfully bad politicking) before the cause was understood to any extent.
    I'm talking about the period from the 40s to (very) roughly the early 80s.
    The choice between celibacy and promiscuity as a cultural artifact with its foundation in the legal and cultural environment of those times clearly pre-dates AIDS.
    Did promiscuity contribute to the spread of the disease? Unquestionably.
    Did promiscuity arise synchronously with AIDS? Unquestionably not.

  • Tony||

    What's another deadly disease that you morally judge people for having?

  • Shirley Knott||

    Alcoholism is certainly a candidate.
    All STDs were before treatments or cures were available.
    It may be contemptible, but it's not rare.

  • Tony||

    I don't understand how you morally condemn people for conditions they don't choose.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    And the ones that choose it?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Being gay does not mean you will get AIDS.

    Risky sex where you are not using rubbers means you will probably get some STD. People chose risky sex.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    It is only fairly recently that we have understood the genetic component of alcoholism well enough to understand that some alcoholics do not choose it. As for STDs, I'm torn. There certainly is an element of choice, but I'm the first to admit that sex isn't a big driver for me, so maybe (almost certainly) my judgement is skewed.

    Then there's th cold fact that for 'respctable' women, attaching social opprobrium to STDs was simply a good (nearly necessary) social strategy.

  • gimmedatribeye||

    If you read Alcoholics Anonymous, it says alcoholism is a spiritual malady. Alcoholics have a different reaction to alcohol, or any substance, than "normal" people. Alcohol isn't the problem for alcoholics, it's their "solution" to deeper issues which is where the 12 steps come in.

  • Tony||

    I wonder how much actual research into alcohol addiction remedies has been delayed by the 12-step cult dominating the discussion.

  • damikesc||

    How many deadly diseases are caused, by a roughly 90%+ clip, from personal behavior?

    Don't want to get AIDS? Avoid anal sex. Your odds become massively lower.

    There is a reason why only one half of the gay community was really hit by it.

  • damikesc||

    How many deadly diseases are caused, by a roughly 90%+ clip, from personal behavior?

    Don't want to get AIDS? Avoid anal sex. Your odds become massively lower.

    There is a reason why only one half of the gay community was really hit by it.

  • Tony||

    So what do you think you're accomplishing with respect to mitigating the problem by using shame as your only tool?

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Advising people to have safer sex lives is responsible. You can be gay without having anal sex. The risk from oral sex is extremely low.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Shame works great!

    Its far better than government control since the government uses guns and threat of death to control you. Shame uses peer pressure. You can ignore shaming.

  • damikesc||

    I was unaware "Hey, dude, be more responsible" is "shaming". Learn something new. If random, anonymous anal sex is part of your culture and you don't want to change, fine. Just realize that you are taking all of those risks willingly and do not whine about it.

    Want to be treated like an equal? Act like one. You want to act like a child, then you anticipate similar treatment.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    To some people criticism is worse than government power.

    Ignorance of how bad government power can get, tends to be the root cause.

  • gimmedatribeye||

    Kinda like how your side "shames" people into supporting your causes?

  • Tony||

    It's just that it's really incredibly easy not to be a bigoted fuckface. Unless you people are just born that way.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    To think, Tony, you were born a gay fuckface bigot.

  • Lucius Fergeson||

    You know you don't have to be a bigot to point out a certain lifestyle is unhealthy or unusual, right? Hell, in that case a bigot saying mean things would (and probably should really) be less of a concern than a disease that destroys your immune system and leave you vulnerable to more deadly conditions, all because of bad sex habits.

  • JesseAz||

    Lung cancer you dumb shit tony. We judge people morally all the time for certain diseases when it is self induced for the most part.

  • Tony||

    I don't. Cigarettes are addictive. That's by definition a reduction in choice. People don't seek to get lung cancer, and shaming them doesn't work anyway. That problem was not brought to you by big government, by the way, but by evil lying corporations you think shouldn't be regulated.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Next, you'll claim that my crack is addictive.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Lung cancer among smokers.

    It is possible to be LGBTQ and monogamous, but fidelity is difficult when fear of assault keeps couples in the closet.

  • damikesc||

    And the risks of assault in the West are hovering around zero. you couldn't be safer here if you tried.

    The groups that you need to fear about assaulting, mind you, are championed by the good buddies of the community on the Left.

    Just sayin'.

  • Shirley Knott||

    Which marks a dramatic change in the culture. You know, the topic of the review we're all commenting on?

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    And here is where I shifted to supporting Gay marriage. Yes, I want gays to be monogamous. Therefore it behooves me to support a publicly ackolwdged legal state that celebrates that, and allows for legal punishment for Gays that promise to be monogamous, but lie.

  • Trigger Warning||

    Cancer.

  • Jerryskids||

    I would suggest the rise of identity politics and the never-ending quest for totems among the SJW's had something to do with the mainstreaming of gays and "gay culture". Just as blacks transitioned from "color doesn't matter" to "all that matters is color", the gays transitioned from "my sexuality doesn't define me" to "I'm defined by my sexuality". It's the triumph of the Left in turning tolerance for the different into the mandatory embrace of the different. Except for the rednecks, the religious, and the right-wing. Those people are beyond the pale.

  • Shirley Knott||

    I don't think the actual timelines bear that out.
    SJW nonsense post-dates much of the social acceptance of gays.
    Witness, if nothing else, the deep schism between 'old school' feminists and the Trans movement.
    The expansion from gay rights to LGBTQ rights is quite recent.
    The Women's Movement shifted us to 'Gay and Lesbian' relatively early on. The eventual success of 'the movement' enabled the social version of 'the iron law of bureaucracy' — can't have a movement without victims plus 'the movement can't be allowed to end'.

  • Derp-o-Matic 6000||

    Yeah, the rise of the social justice culture more closely aligns with the move from asking for tolerance to demanding cake/submission

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    I dunno, the first PC wave happened right around 1990. Perhaps it was a little less distilled, but I think you could make a case that Jerry's right.

  • Shirley Knott||

    Cities began passing gay rights laws in the 70s.

    It's a curve, judging where to set the starting point is, of course, highly subjective, but the actions of individuals, and the impacts of such, started way way before the 90s. Politics and religion are reliable trailing indicators.
    Worth noting, too, that the 'far' left (SDS for concrete example) were distinctly opposed to gays and gay rights. Che was not an outlier.

  • Jerryskids||

    Anecdotal evidence I've mentioned here before, I had a brother who was gay and had a lot of friends in the Gay Pride movement back in the late '80's/early 90's that he lost due to his not wanting to get involved in that stuff. He, like me, thought that it was silly to speak of being proud to be gay, as silly as being proud to be left-handed or blue-eyed or 5 foot 10. Pride should come from something you've accomplished and he had nothing to do with being gay, it was just an accident of birth. He just wanted to be left alone to live his life as he wanted to and he didn't see much difference between the anti-gay zealots demanding he stop being gay and the gay activists insisting that if he wanted to be gay he had to live his life a certain way. I'd say that's the PC-ness of identity politics right there when you're ostracizing a gay guy for not being gay the "right" way. Everybody has the right to be different but only if we're all uniformly different in an identical manner.

  • Shirley Knott||

    I don't disagree. The constraints were looser in the early days.
    Tolerance for different ways to be different was gradually suppressed by a variant of the iron law of movements.
    Group membership tends towards group-think, particularly in environments felt to be hostile.
    Individualism is a tough sell when you're one amongst many going up against the law.
    The reality of that is surely apparent across the entire spectrum of libertarianism.

  • Eidde||

    I think AIDS was of course a dreadful tragedy, but politically it helped the gay cause, because now you're talking about a bunch of sick and dying people, and for all the talk of "homophobic society," Americans tend to be compassionate to the sick and dying.

    There's also the important preliminary work done by the Sexual Revolution among "straights" - which made appeals to traditional sexual mores in the case of gays seem hypocritical, because why should only one part of the population be expected to be guided by these outdated, silly rules?

    And of course, except for true-blue libertarians (and not many of them), people don't draw the nuanced distinction between state-sponsored persecution (of which there have been many examples) and societal discrimination which must be purged by the benevolent state. Once Americans got outraged at the former, they tended to think the logical response was to enlist the government, previously a persecutor of gays, in the cause of purging "homophobic" acts from society.

    Which is perhaps why love and tolerance has come to mean invoking the state to financially cripple the insuffiently loving and tolerant.

  • Eidde||

    OT - I was shocked to find that P. S. Ruckman, the pardon expect often cited in Reason and elsewhere, seems to have killed his two sons and himself.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    The turnout for this meeting of Libertarians For Bigotry, Backwardness, and Superstition seems a little light.

    Are the goobers headed to Charlottesville for the weekend, or something?

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    We still believe in you.

  • Azathoth!!||

    Djou cleen the hay out'cher ass yet, bumpkin?

    'cos everthin' yew say stinks lak manoor.

  • gimmedatribeye||

    How about you mind your own business and not worry about whether or not my support for the LGBT community is sufficient enough to your liking? Last time I checked, this is a free country and I can choose to accept or not accept whoever I want and if you don't like it, you're just going to have to go pound sand. Freedom and liberty are more important than making sure bakers always bake the cake. Your feelings about someone's "bigotry", "backwardness", and "superstition" are irrelevant in a free society. Let people think what they want and get a life.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    You are free to be a bigot. I am free to mention that you are a bigot. That's the way this works, regardless of what you remember from some downscale homeschooling outline.

  • Lucius Fergeson||

    I'm also free to call you a haughty cunt whose writing skills vastly surpass his poor mental capacity because that's also the way it works.

  • Jack Klompus Magic Ink||

    If a deity exists, someone will be inspired to beat the ever-living shit out of you.

  • El Oso||

    Yes, Reason, every group deserve its own special rights...

  • Tony||

    Name a special right gay people have that you don't.

  • El Oso||

    Then why are we talking about 'gay rights' at all?

  • Shirley Knott||

    Because there was a time, not all that long ago, when there were rights withheld from gay people.
    Some people are apparently still quite annoyed that that has largely or entirely changed.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Marriage is a natural right not a right in the Constitution.

    I was surprised more gay folks were not Libertarians who wanted a limited government to simply file every civil union contract for public record. It would have resolved the gay love issue much quicker.

    Plus, the gay marriage is still not resolved. The SCOTUS determined gays can marry. That does not mean shit once a new Supreme Court changes their mind or determines that its none of the governmen's business to decide who can married and who cannot.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    It's a free country, so people are free to expect -- or desire -- a return to all types of bigotry in America.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Arthur, you don't want it to be a free country.

    You want to force to people to like gays and bake cakes they don't want to.

  • Echospinner||

    The libertarian position was always that government does not belong in the marriage business. However they are so we are stuck with that.
    So how about polygamy? I have to say fine with that as well.

    And what about the gay wedding cake issue? We are still waiting to hear what the supremes are going to say.

    Personally I think the artistic expression argument is a good one. It is not a box of cookies on the counter. Wedding cakes are one of a kind created specifically for the customer.

    If I were in the business and the other baker was not making them I would advertise "gayest wedding cakes in town available here". But that is just me not wanting to pass up an opportunity.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Personally, I stick with the 13th amendment argument. It's simply wrong to compel service. Why the person doesn't want to provide it is utterly irrelevant, both sides of every transaction should be voluntary.

  • ThomasD||

    "I have to say fine with that as well."

    No, you dont. If libertarianism means anything it means you can reject everything. The only thing you must 'accept' is not attempting to impose anything on others who are not themselves inflicting harm on others.

  • JesseAz||

    Work place protections. They can sue on their orientation grounds, straight people can not.

    Do you know anything about our laws Tony?

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    America's stale-thinking bigots can't get enough of special rights for right-wing snowflakes, but are as close-minded as ever in other respects.

    Carry on, clingers.

  • Echospinner||

    That is not true. The law is the same for discrimination based on heterosexual orientation. It just never seems to come up.

    I have a link if you need one.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Why are they "gay rights" not called everyone's rights?

    because gay people want special rights.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    The best part of right-wing bigotry is how it dooms the rest of the conservative platform.

  • Jack Klompus Magic Ink||

    The best part of your existence is that nobody will show up to your funeral if you get run over by a garbage truck and your worthless corpse rendered unrecognizable.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    I suppose I should have more sympathy for disaffected rubes, but it is difficult to overlook all of the mean-spirited bigotry that places them at society's fringe.

  • Jack Klompus Magic Ink||

    I suppose you should shove twenty M-80s up your vaj and light them, you useless twerp.

  • gimmedatribeye||

    You have to bake cakes for them, apparently.

  • ThomasD||

    Not any more.

  • Jack Klompus Magic Ink||

    Everyone has the right to remind you on a daily basis that you're a drooling retard.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    "The single most important thing you can do politically for gay rights is to come out," declared Barney Frank, who in 1987 was the first member of Congress to exit the closet voluntarily. "Not to write a letter to your congressman, but to come out."

    Another of the worse politicians of all time. It is taking years to rollback his signature crappy legislation. He also was integral to Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac's horrible lending policies that almost single handedly cause the Great Recession.

    Buy hey, in identity politics, his being gay trumps all that is bad for the USA.

  • Eric Bana||

    Buy hey, in identity politics, his being gay trumps all that is bad for the USA.

    Do you think that is what the writer is trying to convey? If so, your conclusion is clearly wide of the mark.

  • Shirley Knott||

    Or maybe he was correct on this but wrong on many other things.
    2 + 2 = 4 is true even if Goebbels taught it to children.

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    Praaaaaaay the gaaaaaaaaays awaaaaaaaaaaay!!!1!1!1!1!!1!11

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Pray to be gay todaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • sharmota4zeb||

    I came out to my family as bisexual when I fell in love with a man, because I wanted any backlash to blow over before any lover of mine met the family. On the other hand, I think some people had a feeling I was into men ever since I published that internet post with techincal advice for men who want to photograph their asses.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    To bleach or not to bleach. That is the question.

  • Eidde||

    What's gay about that? Plenty of straight people want to see a picture of a donkey, evaluate its load-carrying potential, before committing to buy.

  • Eidde||

  • Nardz||

    Lol-ed

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Psychology Today reviews the history of psychiatrists listing same-sex attraction as a mental illness. It is difficult to come out when doing so can lead to state sanctioned electroshock therapy. In 1968 they moved it from the sociopath category to the sexual deviant category. In 1973, they delisted it but kept "ego-dystonic homosexuality" as a lable for people who felt distressed about their same-sex attractions until 1987. Much of society's changing views boil down to people agreeing with what the state liscenced doctor said.

  • Eidde||

    That was back when psychology was a bunch of fads and guesswork, what relevance does it have to today?

  • Nardz||

    No lol for that one, but you got a wry grin

  • hello.||

    Psychologists with the endorsement of the APA now tells us with authority that president Trump is mentally unfit to hold office and that Christian sexual ethics are a mental disorder so we can be sure they have got it right this time.

  • Tony||

    Christian sexual ethics are where only straight people are permitted to have sex and the womenfolk have to submit to their husband's demands for missionary-style humping whenever they want, for harmony with Jesus, correct?

  • lap83||

    submit to their husband's demands for missionary-style humping whenever they want

    Eww, missionary style? At least when liberals molest each other they add some variety and spice to the mix

  • Tony||

    Not to mention potted plants.

  • Shirley Knott||

    I really don't want to think how you might use potted plants as sex toys.
    Ewwww will have to suffice.

  • damikesc||

    Christian sexual ethics are where only straight people are permitted to have sex and the womenfolk have to submit to their husband's demands for missionary-style humping whenever they want, for harmony with Jesus, correct?

    Can you enlighten us further on OTHER topics you know nothing about?

  • MarkLastname||

    No.

  • Tony||

    Well I can't expect to be a better expert on proper sex than Jesus Christ.

  • Shirley Knott||

    Odd, most people manage.
    But most of the 'sexual morality' of Christianity comes from Paul, not Jesus.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    I don't know. When my Muslim ex-roommate said a wife is not allowed to refuse a husband, he sort of turned me on.

  • Nardz||

    Well, that explains the EX-roommate thing...
    At least he didn't stone you

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Oh, he was much nicer than my ex-wife. He and I had to split up, because of the homophobic angry Black man who came with the apartment. The landlord considered the Black man a member of the family.

  • Echospinner||

    He obviously was not married at the time. Whatever the official line is I wonder if he would still say that after 15 years of marriage.

  • Jack Klompus Magic Ink||

    It would be a Jesus raising the dead level miracle if there were any human being on earth that would engage INA sexual act with you even on a dare.

  • Longtobefree||

    Incorrect.

  • Longtobefree||

    Again.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Meh, the only Christian woman I dated was a Lutheran. She wanted me to rebel against tradition.

  • Jack Klompus Magic Ink||

    Stop pretending that you know anything about sex with a living sentient being.

  • JesseAz||

    Psychology is still a bunch of fads and guesswork. Replication crisis.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Garretson arrives at this conclusion by way of a theory of "affective liberalization." A person's view of a social group, he argues, is influenced far more by his or her emotional reaction, or affect, than by facts and logic. As the AIDS crisis propelled more gays and lesbians to live openly, the proportion of Americans who were aware that they knew a member of that group ballooned. A personal connection with a homosexual colleague, friend, or family member—or even just seeing a recurring LGBT character on mainstream TV—helped build sympathy over time.

    I think this is largely right, and gives a blueprint for how to defeat bigotry generally. Bigotry is empowered when the targets of the bigotry are relegated to the slums of society. When everyone commingles with everyone else, it becomes harder to mentally justify claims of inferiority.

  • Echospinner||

    It is likely part of it. There is that component where people still have a soft bigotry where they know you and you are "one of the good ones"

    True story. We are Jewish. When we bought our house we met the owners. So the wife was talking with us about the neighborhood the wife says in a low conspiratorial voice " I have to tell you something. The people next door, they are Jews. But don't worry they are very nice. He is a doctor and she teaches piano. They go to Israel and everything".

    We just smiled. If she only knew.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Tyler does a nice book review for a looter press publication, and the author doubtless believes his own nonsense. The grim and palpable truth that Republican National Socialism backed away from gay/baiting out of fear of LP spoiler votes. God's Own Prohibitionists barely won the election after purging gay/baiting language from their platform and arranging for their court to rub salve onto the issue. The Libertarian party has since 1972 defended all individual rights--to the point of writing the Roe v Wade decision in that year's platform. What we are seeing is another demonstration of the law-changing clout of libertarian spoiler votes, red herrings to the contrary notwithstanding.

  • General Skarr's Prize Petunias||

    So, Hank, how's that whole irrelevant posting thing working out for you?

  • AlgerHiss||

    "How did public support for the legality of same-sex relations..."

    Let's not get stupid here. There is a huge difference between "support" and "ambivalence"

  • Tony||

    American society quickly accepted gay equality because the former situation could not be justified under casual scrutiny once someone brought it up. That's because the Jesus people alone can't maintain a stranglehold on the American psyche any longer.

    Now, brown people have to contend with something much deeper than Jesus bullshit, the essential American pathology of being oppressive fucks against them. Gays aren't a threat like they are! Gays redo your kitchens, not murder you or impregnate your daughters!

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Americans did not decide on gay equality. The courts forced that. Which is why the issue is not resolved for most of America. Gays will freak out when a new set of justices change their mind and put gays back in the closet.

    Most Americans didn't really care one way or another until government starting forcing Americans to have to bake cakes, etc.

    I also think its funny how gay people think they have some right to not be outed by others. There is not such right.

  • Tony||

    There is no legal right to basic human decency, correct. Just the shame of social ostracism that you no doubt face by any people who matter.

  • TotallyRealMerikanPatriot||

    You're right, there is no right to not be outed. Just the expectations that your private life is your private life and should be respected, not something weaponized by others. I thought Libertarians were all about privacy rights? Maybe I was wrong.

    You also seem to be highly critical of the role courts. I wonder, how long would it have taken for "America to decide" slavery was wrong if the Union didn't win the Civil War and the courts were compelled to uphold the 13th Amendment? How long would it have taken for this "social" issue to have resolved itself? How about segregation?

    I'm a gay man. It's easy to say that society and not courts should determine the course of justice when your rights are not the rights being infringed upon.

  • Azathoth!!||


    When the Political Became the Personal, Gay Rights Were Co-Opted into Furthering the Collectivist Agenda

    FTFY

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    There is a "collectivist agenda", but it's not the one that says "individuals should be treated on their own merits".

  • Bob Mitchell||

    As we advanced forward, someone should write about those in the community who's impact has been negative.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    "Garretson also makes a strong case that younger generations are more supportive of gay rights not because of their youth per se but because there were more "out" people around them during their formative years. "

    I think you have to factor in the entertainment media inserting so many 'gay' characters into TV, and always positively. People watching TV now think 'gays' are about ten times more common than they really are, because they're so over-represented in popular entertainment.

    Coming "out" was a mixed bag, of course.

  • TotallyRealMerikanPatriot||

    *claps* Came to the comments to read the ignorant and vile statements made about homosexuals like me. Was not dissappointed (or was)...

  • Bubba Jones||

    I just want to know when it became ok for my employer to try to shame me into attending a gay pride rally on a Sunday.

  • Horatio||

    The last decade plus has proven a couple things to me about modern cultural politics.

    (1) The thing that follows tolerance in not acceptance, but a baying mob demanding immediate and unconditional acceptance. This leads to backlash and retrenchment.

    (2) The the imminently reasonable argument that we treat people as individuals is persuasive until we actually treat people as individuals, after which people will demand to be treated as a group victim. The problem is all of us are flawed assholes in some way or another and don't want to be treated accordingly, so we retreat to the safety of collective victimhood from which we can comfortably throw stones.

  • JonFrum||

    The gay rights movement was successful because it was led by (upper) middle class white people who had to social capital to work the system. And because at the same time, the American center-left was losing its interest in black people, who seemed to just keep committing crimes and having children they couldn't afford no matter how much you did for them. So who's more sympathetic - a man who looks like your doctor, or another black male standing in court for shooting another black male over 'disrespect?'

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