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Ex-liberal and ex-Lutheran Rev. Richard John Neuhaus recently got bilious on his magazine's Web site:
"There was an op-ed [by Dan Savage] in Wednesday’s New York Times asserting that 70 percent of Americans personally know someone who is gay. That seems statistically improbable. Somewhere between two and four percent of American males identify themselves as gay. (The figure is much lower for women.) Most of them are congregated in cities, and in those parts of cities known to be gay-friendly. Chelsea and the West Village, along with the Castro district of San Francisco and counterparts in other larger cities, are not America. Gays live in such places precisely because they are not America." (Various appalled Catholics and conservatives comment here.)
Neuhaus makes this stretch, exposing himself in the process, in order to claim that most Americans know gay people only as exploiters and betrayers like ex-congressman Foley and ex-preacher Haggard. In fact, Neuhaus's nasty crusade to equate "gay" with "sin" has been losing ground since before he undertook it.
The authoritative General Social Survey (discussed briefly in the Reader, Feb. 25, 2005) doesn't have a perfectly apposite question among those it asks every year or two of a representative sample of Americans, but the answers to this one over the decades show the direction in which our country is headed:
"81. And what about a man who admits that he is a homosexual?
B. Should such a person be allowed to teach in a college or
university, or not?"
In the 1970s, 52 percent of Americans answered yes.
In the 1980s, 60 percent.
In the 1990s, 73 percent.
In the 2000s, 80 percent.
Check out the data here.