John M. Becker

Straight People Embrace Marriage Equality, Reject Gay PDA

Filed By John M. Becker | November 20, 2014 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: double standards, Duggars, gay marriage, holding hands, kiss-in, kissing, marriage equality, Michael Sam, PDA, same-sex affection, same-sex kissing, same-sex marriage, scientific study

A new study from Indiana University finds that a majority of straight Americans say they support equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, but they also don't want to see those couples kissing or holding hands in public -- particularly if the lovebirds are men.

The Chicago Tribune reports:

The study, which appears in the December issue of the American Sociological Review, came out of a national survey of more than 1,000 straight, gay and lesbian people.

Respondents were given one of three scenarios involving either a straight, gay or lesbian couple. In each scenario, the hypothetical couples were unmarried and living together.

Respondents were asked whether the couple should be granted legal benefits like family leave, hospital visitation and inheritance rights. They were asked if the hypothetical couple should be allowed to marry. And they were asked if they considered it acceptable for the couple to hold hands in public, to kiss on the cheek in public or to French kiss in a park.

The researchers found that straight respondents were almost equally supportive of legal benefits for couples of all orientations. About 70 percent of straight respondents said they support inheritance rights for gay and lesbian couples, for example. The level of support on the inheritance rights issue was the same for heterosexual couples.

But the straight people in the survey were less supportive of public displays of affection by gay and lesbian couples.

More details, after the break.

A whopping 99 percent of straight people surveyed said they approved of legal marriage for opposite-sex couples. (Try to contain your shock.) 59 percent said they thought lesbian couples should be able to marry, and 53 percent said they believed gay male couples should have the freedom to marry as well.

Nearly all of the straight participants (95%) said they approved of straight couples kissing each other on the cheek in public. But when asked whether they approved of lesbian couples doing the same, the number went down to 72 percent. Only 55% of respondents said they approved of public kisses between gay couples.

loving-female-african-american-couple.jpgThinkProgress reports that a similar divide exists with regard to French kissing: 50% approve of straight couples doing it in public, but only 26% approve of lesbian couples and 22% approve of gay couples engaging in the same behavior.

What accounts for the higher approval numbers for lesbian PDAs than gay PDAs? You guessed it: straight men -- the study found that straight guys were far more likely to express disapproval of public displays of affection between male couples far than between female couples.

Long Doan, an IU doctoral candidate in sociology and lead author of the study, told Al Jazeera that he's not surprised that Americans' views on public displays of same-sex affection lag behind their support for marriage equality, pointing to "a long line of literature showing that Americans tend to move quicker on these formal types of attitudes."

"We had civil rights laws long before we had positive attitudes toward ethnic minorities," Doan said, adding that Americans support rights because they see themselves as egalitarian, regardless of their personal views on homosexuality.

"The more informal, subtle types of prejudice linger much longer, because that actually requires people to change their views," he said.

Doan said that researchers were surprised when the data revealed that in some cases, even same-sex couples were less supportive of gay and lesbian PDAs than they were of similar displays between straight couples. "We think part of the reason they're less supportive ... is that they're afraid of the negative backlash that gay and lesbian couples may experience," he said.

Doan and his colleagues also released additional data in August which found that respondents perceived straight couples to be more "in love" -- and therefore more deserving of basic rights and protections -- than same-sex couples.

michael-sam-kiss-espn.pngThe results of the IU study mirror a HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted in the aftermath of Michael Sam's famous on-air same-sex kiss this spring. In that survey, 60 percent of Americans and 65 percent of NFL fans said they supported openly gay sports players, but 47 percent told pollsters they thought it was "inappropriate" for networks to air footage of the kiss; only 36 percent said airing the kiss was appropriate.

More recently, the Duggar family's kissing controversy -- where they asked for photos of married couples kissing, but deleted the pictures of many same-sex couples who responded -- vividly demonstrated this very same double standard.

These reactions send a clear message to the LGBT community: we'll tolerate you - we can deal with your existence and even grant you equal legal rights - but public expressions of your love are gross and disgusting. Get a room, they're telling us. We don't want to see that.

j&m_libertybell.pngBut as I, Slate's Mark Joseph Stern, Huffington Post's Michelangelo Signorile, and others wrote when the Michael Sam story blew up, it also tells us that many people just aren't used to seeing displays of intimacy between same-sex couples.

So how should same-sex couples respond? Should we cave to this double standard, keeping our love behind closed doors and "getting a room" to accommodate straight people's discomfort? Hell no. We need to publicly kiss and hold hands more. A lot more.

Let's get kissing, y'all!

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