Teaching about homosexuality in North American public
Suggested topic 7
We recommend that a comprehensive course in homosexuality at the high school
level involve seven main topics. The final topic involves the findings of public opinion pollsters concerning acceptance of
homosexuality. Of particular interest are changes in opinion over time, and opinion differences among different
This essay is
currently being expanded
Movements towards equality:
Many people develop their beliefs about race, gender, and sexual orientation
during their childhood or teen years, and do not change them during their life.
Thus, change is slow. Social acceptance of oppressed groups usually takes generations or even centuries to complete.
Three major conflicts in which groups have worked to attain
equal rights, privileges and protections in North America are:
Anabaptists started to oppose slavery in the late 17th century. They were
joined by Quakers and Mennonites. When John Wesley,
founder of the Methodist movement, focused on slavery in the
18th century, the small protest became a mass movement for the abolition of
slavery. Slavery in Canada was phased out, starting in the early 19th century.
Slavery in the U.S. was abolished in the 1860s as a result of the Civil War. The
process in North America took two centuries. However negative affects of slavery
in the U.S. and Canada endure to the present time. |
|Women's rights: The drive for equal rights and opportunities for
women in North America gained strength in the late 19th century. Over a
century later, women have attained equal rights in many areas. However, they
are still not permitted to function in certain military roles. The Roman
Catholic Church, Orthodox Churches, many conservative Protestant
churches, and other religious organizations prohibit
female ordination. The move to equality has taken over a century, and
the clock is still ticking.|
|Homosexual rights: In colonial days, homosexual behavior was
often considered a capital crime. Change in attitudes has
rapid, starting in the mid-20th century. The "homosexual agenda" has
as one of its goals the general acceptance of homosexuality as a normal, natural
sexual orientation. This is the position expressed by the American Psychological Association in 1994: "Homosexuality
is neither mental illness nor moral depravity. It is simply the way a minority of our population expresses human love and sexuality.
A half century has passed since the first meaningful study of homosexuality, and
many advances towards equality have been accomplished. But much remains to be
Trends towards acceptance of homosexuality:
|In 1950, psychologists and psychiatrists still regarded homosexuality as a severe
|During the 1950s Evelyn Hooker completed the first meaningful study of
homosexuals in society and showed that "homosexuals were not
inherently abnormal and that there was no difference between homosexual and
heterosexual men in terms of pathology." More details
|There was a delay of about one generation while mental health professionals
gradually accepted the findings of studies by Hooker and subsequent researchers.|
|The revolt by gays, lesbians, transsexuals and others against police
harassment at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, NY, triggered the
gay liberation movement. |
1973, almost a generation after Hooker's work, the American Psychiatric Association
removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses. Subsequently, many
other mental health, legal, educational, and social work professional
associations issued statements accepting homosexual orientation.|
|During the next generation, homosexual rights organizations gradually
whittled away at laws which criminalized homosexual behavior,. They successfully
promoted anti-discrimination laws and bylaws in many cities and states. |
|In the year 2000, a Vermont bill to allow same-sex couples to enter
into civil unions became law.|
|The year 2003 saw many developments:|
|In the case Lawrence v. Texas, the U.S.
Supreme Court declared state anti-sodomy laws to be unconstitutional. These
laws existed in 13 states. They banned same-sex sexual behavior in private between
|In the case Halpern et al. v. Canada (A.G.) et al., the Ontario Superior
Court of Justice ordered the province of Ontario in Canada to start issuing
marriage licenses to same-sex couples.|
|In the case Goodridge
et al v. Department of Public Health, the Supreme Judicial Court
of Massachusetts ruled that the state constitution allows same-sex
marriage or civil unions. |
|By 2005-MAY, same sex couples can marry in Massachusetts, and can enter into
civil unions or domestic partnerships in California, Connecticut and Vermont.
They can also marry in 7 out of 10 Canadian provinces which contain almost 90%
of the country's population.|
Recent legal developments became possible because the general public's
perception of homosexuals influenced the courts and legislators. Also, the decisions of various courts and
legislatures to grant homosexuals equal rights have influenced the public's beliefs
Other contributing factors were:
|An increasing number of gays and lesbian have come out of "the closet"
in recent decades, and gone public with their sexual orientation. Coming out
is a risky process. However, this has
vastly increased the percentage of North Americans who personally know at
least one gay or lesbian. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey in the year 2000
showed that among those who don't know any homosexuals, 68% agreed with the
statement "Homosexual behavior is morally wrong." Among those who
know a homosexual as a personal friend, the percentage dropped to 47%.
|A vast amount of information has also become available in recent decades
about sexual orientation in general, and homosexuals, lesbians and bisexuals,
their relationships, their families, and their children in particular.|
Shifts in public opinion:
|From 1977 to 2004, the Gallup Organization found that the percentage of
American adults agreeing with the statement "Should homosexual have equal
rights in terms of employment" went from 56% to 89%.|
|Over the same interval:|
|The percentage approving of gays and lesbians in the military rose
from 51% to 80%|
|The percentage approving of gays as clergy rose from 35% to 61%|
|The percentage approving of gays as elementary school teachers rose
from 27% to 56%.|
|From 1996 to 2004, the Gallup Organization
found that the percentage of American adults who felt that marriages between
homosexuals should be recognized by the law as valid rose from 27% to 42%.|
|Between 1987 and 2003, the UCLA / ACE survey of 7
million entering collegians in America showed that the percentage who agreed
that "It is important to have laws prohibiting homosexual relationships"
dropped from 53% to 26%. 3|
|Zogby International and
Hamilton College conducted a poll of "class of 2001" high
school seniors. This is particularly indicative of future cultural trends.
They found that:|
|92% felt that homosexuals should be able to serve in the military.|
|88% support anti hate-crime legislation to protect gays and
|85% believe that gays and lesbians should be accepted by society.|
|78% of students who have a close gay friend favor same-sex marriage.
This reduces to 59% for those who only know a gay person, and 55% of those who don't know any gay persons.|
|66% feel that same-sex marriages should be legal.
More polling data.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
L.R. Holben, "What Christians think about homosexuality: Six representative viewpoints," Bibal Press, (1999).
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online book store.
- "Evelyn Hooker, PhD,"
Cited in David G.
Meyers & Letha Dawson Scanzoni, "What God has joined together? A Christian
case for gay marriage," HarperSanFrancisco, (2005-JUN), Pages 140 to 147. This is
based on a proof version of the book; the page number may be changed in the
final published copy.
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online book store.
Copyright © 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally posted: 2005-MAY-8
Latest update: 2005-MAY-8
Author: B.A. Robinson