US crossing the watershed on gay marriage

Before we get to the main act, here’s the opener. Hit TV series Glee’s first gay kiss has got actress and singer Victoria Jackson in a twist. This conservative with Tea Party views slammed the scene in her blog, getting her invited onto television. Whether she has used the opportunity to advance her case or make a bigger fool of herself, I shall leave it to you to decide.

Is Glee still showing on Mediacorp Channel 5? If they haven’t yet axed it, you can bet your virgin ass that this scene with the kiss will be cut before Singaporeans are allowed to watch it.

More seriously, buried in the online (“Breaking News”) version of the Straits Times on 19 March 2011 was this short report:

Majority in US back gay marriage: Poll

Washington – A majority of Americans say they are in favour of same-sex marriage, a poll released Friday found, reflecting shifting US sentiment on the issue.

Fifty-three per cent of Americans support gay marriage, up more than 20 percentage points from a low of 32 per cent in 2004, the poll of 1,005 adults conducted over four days last week for ABC News and the Washington Post found.

Gary Langer of Langer Research Associates, which produced the poll, called the findings a ‘milestone result that caps a dramatic, long-term shift in public attitudes.’ It was the first time that the ABC News-Washington Post poll, which has asked the same question since 2003, had shown a majority of American favoring same-sex marriage, the Post said.

It said other polls conducted by Pew Research Centre, the Associated Press and CNN had found similar trends.

Five years ago, only a majority of people younger than 30 supported gay marriage, but now majorities of those in their 30s and 40s do, the poll shows.

But, overall, Americans are still divided over gay marriage, with as many adults strongly opposed to same-sex unions as support them, and opposition to same-sex unions still strong among conservatives. — AFP

Like so much gay news, it never made it to the print edition. I have long noticed this pattern though I don’t exactly know why the policy is the way it is.

As the report says, it is a milestone event. I would have thought it important to shake Singaporeans out of their complacent thinking that acceptance of gay equality is still marginal in deeply Christian America, but evidently the Straits Times does not think so, omitting it from their more widely-read print edition. It’s not doing Singapore any service to keep our citizens ignorant of such an important trend.

This news story was foreshadowed by an article on Huffington Post by Charles Franklin dated 3 March 2011. It discusses the findings of a Pew poll, whose numbers are somewhat different from the ABC News-Washington Post poll mentioned above but still similar  in terms of trending. Pew found in its Feb 2011 survey that 45 percent supported same-sex marriage and 46 percent opposed. Nine percent said “Don’t know”. The actual wording of the question was “Do you believe gay marriage should be legal?” While the Pew poll didn’t find support exceeding opposition, the figures are now so close that they are expected to cross within the next 12 months.

This is based on the fact that the trend is a relentless one over the long term, as this graph from Charles Franklin shows:

Besides being relatively consistent directionally over the long term, the rate of change is also considered by social scientists to be unusually fast. Very seldom does one see social attitudes changing at a rate as rapid as this on other issues.

* * * * *

Then yesterday, a reader sent me a link to another Huffington Post article, which reported that Roman Catholics were more supportive of gay and lesbian rights than the general public and other Christians. This story reports on a  study conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute which found that 43 percent of Catholics supported gay marriage and another 31 percent supported civil unions for same-sex couples. That makes a total of 74 percent who would recognise the relationship legally.

73 percent favoured laws that would protect gay and lesbian people against discrimination in the workplace, while 60 percent supported gay and lesbian couples’ rights to adoption.

69 percent disagreed that homosexual orientation could be changed and 70 percent agreed that messages (typically negative) from places of worship contributed to higher rates of suicide among gay and lesbian youth.

Only about 40 percent of US Catholics give their church high marks for the way it is handling the issue of homosexuality. In the Huffington Post article, Michelle Dillon, chair of the Sociology Department at University of New Hampshire, was quoted as saying: “Most American Catholics believe that one can be a good Catholic and disagree with the Vatican and the bishops on issues of personal conscience; gay marriage has clearly become another issue, along with artificial contraception and divorce and remarriage, which Catholics believe is not core to what it means to be Catholic.”

20 Responses to “US crossing the watershed on gay marriage”


  1. 1 Peter Mak 24 March 2011 at 19:01

    You know, at least she is honest about the basis of her views. You won’t see that coming from the Thio mother-and-daughter duo, and their ilk, who use purportedly scientific/logical arguments to support their homophobia and bigotry.

  2. 2 Dwolf 24 March 2011 at 23:59

    I haven’t watched Glee on local tv so far, but from just searches on Twitter it appears that Singtel has already censored the ep.

    Hardly reliable but here’s a tweet mentioning it anyway. We won’t be able to see what magic Mediacorp would enact with their scissors because they seemed to have stopped airing Glee.

    I wonder why ST even bothered including that article in their online edition under ‘Breaking News’ if they weren’t going to print it. News so breaking, we can’t expose the masses to it. Moving past that, it is hopeful to see that the US population is becoming more progressive including the religious.

    • 3 STreader 25 March 2011 at 14:53

      The ‘Breaking News’ section isn’t ‘breaking news’ in the journalistic sense of the term to mean a developing story or unexpected events such as earthquakes and plane crashes.

      The stories in ST’s Breaking News section are stories that are more current than their latest print edition, and may or may not be included in the next edition… Just my observation, I don’t work at ST.

  3. 4 blacktryst 25 March 2011 at 05:58

    At least Victoria is not a ‘witch’, lol! From the ground, it does seem that public sentiment in the US has been steadily accepting of Gay marriage. Mayhaps from the fact that Gay marriage proponents has been very successful in arguing from the Human rights and equality point of view and getting the unions and Rainbow alliance (Parents or friends or colleagues of LGBTs) to propagate that viewpoint. So kudos to those activists. As for Catholics, I do not know if that is true. Perhaps North American catholics but i am not sure about other countries except perhaps Spain which surprisingly enacted the law that legalizes Same-sex marriages which infuriates the Vatican so much.

  4. 5 John Tan 25 March 2011 at 06:55

    Each time a gay scene get nixed the broadcaster takes the flak. But their hands are tied by MDA’s regulations–which are becoming untenable as more and more gay plots get written into mainstream programmes. I believe some quarters in MDA are asking if they should deprive everyone large chunks of television just to satisfy their rules against homosexual portrayal. But knowing how the organization works, this will not be relaxed without directions from above.

    • 6 Desmond 25 March 2011 at 13:47

      The interesting thing is this, whenever something gets nicked, it generates more interest in it in Singapore and a lot of these people would go to other avenues to watch what was nicked. And these people will rely less on Mediacorp to not sensor “sensitive” stuff and watch (download) more shows/movies online, where they are assured that it is uncensored.

      This really creates a very vicious cycle. If anyone takes a poll now of these days, it would seem that when a movie/show has been nicked the number of people watching it dips as these people would most probably watch it online.

      Nice to know that MDA (even Mediacorp) still think they are relevent.

  5. 7 Phil Bay 25 March 2011 at 10:28

    Victoria Jackson is more of a comedian than an actress and singer. Well most of us who watched Glee and other American-based films/ tv-series had stopped turning to Singapore sources; there are so much online streaming sites which provide decent video quality anyways.

  6. 8 Phil Bay 25 March 2011 at 10:48

    Does anyone know if our radio stations had censored out Gaga’s verses in Born This Way regarding the LGBT community? I’m only aware of Malaysia’s censorship…

  7. 9 tk 25 March 2011 at 12:16

    Alex wrote: “…the rate of change is also considered by social scientists to be unusually fast. Very seldom does one see social attitudes changing at a rate as rapid as this on other issues.”

    One other ‘issue’ (if you can call it that) that is changing fast, and increasing in pace, is religious non-affiliation.

    The BBC reports that a group of mathematicians has modelled religious non-affiliation worldwide and shown that the pace is rapidly increasing.

    Basically this is due to the perceieved utility of affiliation vs non-affiliation – in a modern secular society, there’s no advantage to be gained by belonging to a particular religion.

    And again I have to point out (and laugh while doing so) that while American Catholics may feel that they don’t have to listen to the Vatican and the Pope on the pesky little “issues of personal conscience”, that is in fact exactly what they have to do if they wish to call themselves Catholics. So, if you don’t like the company you keep, leave.

    BBC report:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12811197

    Original publication:
    http://arxiv.org/abs/1012.1375

    • 10 Another 25 March 2011 at 14:29

      “Basically this is due to the perceieved utility of affiliation vs non-affiliation – in a modern secular society, there’s no advantage to be gained by belonging to a particular religion.”

      I beg to differ on this. Religions can provide a venue that supports a multitude of networks for business, relationships, information and culture.

      I think what is central to this article is an emergent attitude of skepticism, even amongst the religious. Whether one believed in the existence of God or not, that was something that could not be proved or disproved to be factual. On the other hand, certain positions of the Vatican such as in homosexuality, abortion, genetics, etc. are becoming untenable when real-life situations demand more perspectives of seeing and solving them.

      On a more specific note, there is more skepticism towards authority and culture whether it is the Vatican, the MDA and Church culture. There might be a greater individual consciousness of power amongst ordinary people but whether this translates into collective and meaningful action still remains to be seen.

      70% of all Americans might support gay marriages but only 30% of Churches/places of worship follow suit.

      • 11 yawningbread 25 March 2011 at 14:58

        Eh? How did my article which reported 45 – 50 percent of Americans supporting gay marriage become “70% of all Americans might support gay marriages”?

      • 12 tk 26 March 2011 at 10:39

        “I beg to differ on this. Religions can provide a venue that supports a multitude of networks for business, relationships, information and culture.”

        So does the golf course.

  8. 13 Another 25 March 2011 at 16:30

    My apologies for the abrupt ending. That is a hypothetical example.

    What I mean to say is that the percentage of individuals supporting same-sex marriages does not necessarily correspond to an equivalent culture of change or “crossing a watershed on gay marriage”.

    In other words, individual sentiments towards a culture do not form a neat correlation with change in that particular culture.

    • 14 yawningbread 25 March 2011 at 20:00

      Sorry, but this makes even less sense.

      • 15 Gard 25 March 2011 at 22:51

        Can I use an analogy to guess at what ‘another’ is saying?

        Suppose the majority of people support an idea, but if any uncoordinated individual’s action result in individual loss relative to the rest who do not follow suit, then change is unlikely to happen.

        An example is doing overtime work. Even if the majority prefer not to do overtime, any one individual choosing to go home ‘on the dot’ while the others stay behind to work overtime, might suffer a loss in terms of performance assessment.

        In this case, to change the situation, the boss must lead, or binding collective cooperation occurs, or something forces a situation upon the majority to make that choice.

      • 16 Another 26 March 2011 at 13:48

        Thanks Gard and YB for your patience.

        My point (and another way of expressing Gard’s words) is:

        Not everyone is willing to initiate and sustain the cultural change that they wish to see happening.

        I hope this clarifies.

        Statistics cannot capture group consciousness, let alone the likelihood of collective action to change culture. A better method to analyse this would be through focus group discussions whereby group dynamics form the main aim of investigation, whatever the topic may be.

      • 17 ST 26 March 2011 at 15:12

        What??! You’re saying that a poll of 1000 people is a less accurate barometer of public sentiment than a focus group or groups??!

  9. 18 Gazebo 26 March 2011 at 06:00

    actually i don’t think victoria really believe in the things she said. the messed up thing about america is that u can just pander to the morons and score a mini comeback in one’s washed up career.

  10. 20 passerby 1 April 2011 at 15:10

    In the very first episode of glee, Rachel had a one-liner that explains her having 2 dads and she opened her locker to show pictures (very family friendly ones, might I add) of them. Well, Channel 5 censored it.

    So as for the kiss? Heh, we have such a long way to go.


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