Support for LGBT Issues Declines

by | May 1, 2024 | 0 comments

Last year was rough for queer people in America. Every week, there seemed to be another attack from some political leader somewhere in the country targeting the community with hateful legislation, and even though the vast majority of them didn’t become laws, the language and lies surrounding those efforts have had damaging ripple effects that we are only starting to understand now.

Put bluntly, support for LGBTQ causes has dropped for the first time since 2015, and the extreme political polarization of the country, and the repeated attacks on queer Americans—specifically drag queens and trans people—is largely to blame, according to a new poll by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI).  Most surprising in the report is that young people, aged 18–29, accounted for the largest drop in support, negating the idea that because those coming of age are much more likely to identify openly as queer or to have people in their immediate circle who identify as such, that this generation as a whole is progressive in regards to LGBTQ rights.

Party Polarization Nationwide 

In an interview with PBS Newshour, Melissa Deckman, the CEO of PRRI expressed her surprise and concern about these drops, saying that research has shown that they are caused by party polarization and the rise of Christian nationalism. As an example, in 2020, 64% of Americans aged 18–29 who identified as Republican supported same-sex marriage. That number has now dropped to 49%, despite nearly one in five people aged 18–29 in America identifying as LGBTQ. In short, one side gets queerer, and the other gets more hateful.

We’ve seen anecdotal evidence of this in news stories like that of Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old, non-binary teenager who was attacked in the bathroom of their high school, and later committed suicide, presumably because of relentless bullying. This incident is particularly notable since the altercation took place in a school bathroom. According to the New York Times, Oklahoma, where Nex lived, has “several laws restricting transgender rights,” they said in an article dated March 15, 2024, including what has become known as a “bathroom bill,” that “prohibits students from using bathrooms that do not align with their sex at birth.” Furthermore, the Oklahoma State Legislature is “considering a bill to prohibit residents from changing their sex designation on birth certificates, and another to require public schools to acknowledge that gender is an ‘immutable biological trait’ and bar people from using names or pronouns that differ from their birth certificates.”

Oklahoma isn’t alone in their quest for anti-LGBTQ, and particularly anti-trans, legislation. We saw this in Wisconsin this past fall as bills were proposed that sought to limit trans students’ ability to participate in sporting events, limit or ban gender-affirming care for trans people under the age of 18, and forcing incarcerated people to be placed and stripped searched according to their assigned sex at birth, rather than their identity or presentation.

Many questioned why the legislature even bothered with these bills, knowing that Tony Evers would certainly veto them. The fear was that they did so to grandstand to their increasingly radical base for the sake of votes and fundraising, but also that even the introduction of these bills would have a chilling effect on people, particularly young people, coming out as trans. Hearings on these bills, particularly the sports and gender care bills, were packed with many on either side who at times were verbally hostile toward each other as many shared their experiences. In those hearings, it was clear how truly divided this state and country are with regard to LGBTQ rights—and how far we still have to go to make sure that these rights are codified and protected.

Christian Nationalism 

The rise of Christian nationalism has markedly pulled people, including young people—who might otherwise have more tempered views that slowly get more progressive—back to the far right, and toward rejection of LGBTQ rights. When noting this fact, it’s important to know what Christian nationalism is and what it isn’t. It is not, according to the Washington Post, interchangeable with evangelical Christians, or for anyone who either “votes their values” or wants “religion to play a part in public life.” According to University of Oklahoma sociology professor Samuel Perry, “The difference between Christian nationalism and civil religion is Christian nationalism says this country was founded by our people for a people like us and it should stay that way.”

The PRRI report grouped people into a Christian Nationalism Scale, which “sorts respondents into four types depending on their responses to a battery of five questions gauging different tenets of Christian nationalism, we can see how adherence or rejection to Christian nationalism relates to support or opposition to LGBTQ policies.” When looking at people’s views according to this scale, Christian nationalism rejectors are very supportive of LGBTQ rights, including those to marry, not be discriminated against, or be subjected to religiously based refusals. Most of those numbers were in the 90th percentile. Support decreases steadily as you go down the scale, with skeptics still supporting but at a much lower percentage (60–75%). Unsurprisingly, Christian nationalism sympathizers and adherents strongly oppose LGBTQ rights, with white Christian nationalism adherents being the strongest opposition among those asked, and these have been the loudest, and most effective, political group with regard to dismantling these rights.

Rights Can Roll Back 

Deckman, when asked what lies ahead and why these numbers matter, replied that they are the “canary in the coal mine,” and that we should not assume that rights, even those granted by the US Supreme Court, will exist “in perpetuity,” or increase. We saw this with the Dobbs decision reversing Roe v. Wade, and should expect legal challenges going forward to roll back those rights. We also can’t assume that as older generations age out and younger generations come to the fore in government, that those younger people are more progressive. Lastly, we can’t assume that just because a large majority of Americans as a whole support LGBTQ rights, that that means those rights will be legally protected. She ends with the mantra that “votes matter,” which I know sounds like a tired slogan but only gets more true as we near the 2024 election.


Melanie Jones is a photographer and writer living on the northside of Madison with her spouse, two dogs, and three cats. While she enjoys photographing people, her passion for the past two years has been her photography work with dogs under her Dulcy Dog Photography brand, located on Atwood Avenue.

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