The Science and Politics of Sexual Orientation

Kevin Lewis

October 27, 2009

Differences in African American and White Women's Attitudes Toward Lesbians and Gay Men

Wilson Vincent, John Peterson & Dominic Parrott
Sex Roles, November 2009, Pages 599-606

The aim of the present study was to examine racial differences in women's attitudes toward lesbians and gay men and to offer an understanding of these differences. Participants were 224 18-30 year old heterosexual African American (64%) and White (36%) female undergraduates from a large urban university in the southeastern United States. Participants completed measures of social demographics, sexual orientation, and sexual prejudice. Results showed that African American, relative to White, women endorsed more negative attitudes toward lesbians and gay men. Also, unlike White women, African American women reported more negative attitudes toward gay men than lesbians. Implications are discussed regarding differences in cultural contexts that exist between African American and White women.


The Cost of Parenthood: Unraveling the Effects of Sexual Orientation and Gender on Income

Amanda Baumle
Social Science Quarterly, December 2009, Pages 983-1002

Objectives: Prior research has repeatedly shown that parenthood affects employment outcomes; mothers have, on average, lower wages and are less likely to be hired than childless women. Some research indicates that this effect of parenthood on employment outcomes is dependent on sexual orientation. In particular, lesbian mothers might be treated more like childless women by those making employment decisions. This article examines the degree to which the lesbian wage advantage can be explained by lesbians avoiding the motherhood wage penalty experienced by heterosexual women.

Methods: Drawing on 2000 U.S. Census data, this issue is first explored via ordinary least squares regression equations that estimate the effect of having a child present in the household on income. The Blinder-Oaxaca method is then employed to decompose the earnings differential between heterosexual and gay individuals.

Results: Results indicate that lesbians appear to experience a motherhood advantage that increases their wages by approximately 20 percent. Further, results support the notion that lesbians receive different returns to the presence of children in the household than do heterosexual women. Approximately 35 percent of the wage differential between lesbians and heterosexual women is attributable to differences in returns to child rearing.

Conclusion: These findings have relevance for state and federal anti-discrimination laws and work/family policies, as they provide further insight into the role that gender, and gender-based assumptions, play in determining employment outcomes.


Labour Force Status and Sexual Orientation

Karen Leppel
Economica, February 2009, Pages 197-207

This study explores the probabilities of being employed, unemployed, and not in the labour force, for men and women in same-sex couples and married and unmarried opposite-sex couples. Same-sex partners were more likely to be unemployed than married opposite-sex partners but less likely than unmarried opposite-sex partners. Laws prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination had positive and larger effects on unemployment for same-sex partners than for other partners. The presence of young children increased the probability of being out of the labour force more for male same-sex partners than for other men, and less for female same-sex partners than for other women.


State-Level Policies and Psychiatric Morbidity In Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Populations

Mark Hatzenbuehler, Katherine Keyes & Deborah Hasin
American Journal of Public Health, forthcoming

Objectives: We investigated the modifying effect of state-level policies on the association between lesbian, gay, or bisexual status and the prevalence of psychiatric disorders.

Methods: Data were from wave 2 of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), a nationally representative study of noninstitutionalized US adults (N=34653). States were coded for policies extending protections against hate crimes and employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Results: Compared with living in states with policies extending protections, living in states without these policies predicted a significantly stronger association between lesbian, gay, or bisexual status and psychiatric disorders in the past 12 months, including generalized anxiety disorder (F=3.87; df=2; P=.02), post-traumatic stress disorder (F=3.42; df =2; P=.04), and dysthymia (F=5.20; df =2; P=.02). Living in states with policies that did not extend protections also predicted a stronger relation between lesbian, gay, or bisexual status and psychiatric comorbidity (F=2.47; df =2; P=.04).

Conclusions: State-level protective policies modify the effect of lesbian, gay, or bisexual status on psychiatric disorders. Policies that reduce discrimination against gays and lesbians are urgently needed to protect the health and well-being of this population.


Gay Rights in the States: Public Opinion and Policy Responsiveness

Jeffrey Lax & Justin Phillips
American Political Science Review, August 2009, Pages 367-386

We study the effects of policy-specific public opinion on state adoption of policies affecting gays and lesbians, and the factors that condition this relationship. Using national surveys and advances in opinion estimation, we create new estimates of state-level support for eight policies, including civil unions and nondiscrimination laws. We differentiate between responsiveness to opinion and congruence with opinion majorities. We find a high degree of responsiveness, controlling for interest group pressure and the ideology of voters and elected officials. Policy salience strongly increases the influence of policy-specific opinion (directly and relative to general voter ideology). There is, however, a surprising amount of noncongruence - for some policies, even clear supermajority support seems insufficient for adoption. When noncongruent, policy tends to be more conservative than desired by voters; that is, there is little progay policy bias. We find little to no evidence that state political institutions affect policy responsiveness or congruence.


Effects of Defendant Sexual Orientation on Jurors' Perceptions of Child Sexual Assault

Tisha Wiley & Bette Bottoms
Law and Human Behavior, February 2009, Pages 46-60

We examined mock jurors' reactions to a sexual abuse case involving a male teacher and a 10-year-old child. Because gay men are sometimes stereotyped as child molesters, we portrayed defendant sexual orientation as either gay or straight and the victim as either a boy or girl. Jurors made more pro-prosecution decisions in cases involving a gay versus straight defendant, particularly when the victim was a boy. In boy-victim cases, jurors' emotional feelings of moral outrage toward the defendant mediated these effects. On average, women jurors were more pro-prosecution than were men. Results have implications for understanding social perceptions of cross- and same-gender child sexual abuse and juror decision making in child sexual assault cases perpetrated by homosexual and heterosexual men.


Why Did Californians Pass Proposition 8?

Gregory Lewis & Charles Gossett
Georgia State University Working Paper, August 2009

In one of the most disappointing electoral blows in the struggle for gay and lesbian rights, California voters passed Proposition 8 by a 52-48 margin in November 2008, overturning a state supreme court decision that had legalized same-sex marriage earlier in the year. Although popular votes have almost uniformly rejected same-sex marriage rights, usually by large margins, the polls had indicated that a majority of Californians would vote against the proposition and retain marriage equality. Using data from 24 polls of Californians since 1985, we consider four hypotheses to explain why the polls got it wrong: (1) many respondents misled pollsters, perhaps worried that they would appear to be bigots if they expressed their real beliefs; (2) more effective efforts by the Yes on 8 campaign lowered support for same-sex marriage; (3) a principled opposition by some same-sex marriage opponents to writing discrimination into the constitution declined over the year; and (4) survey respondents misunderstood Proposition 8 and changed their positions as they became more aware of its meaning. We find the most support for the fourth hypothesis and conclude that Proposition 8 passed because most Californians oppose same-sex marriage. Our analysis of changes over time also makes us skeptical that support for same-sex marriage will increase enough by 2012 to pass a new amendment guaranteeing same-sex marriage rights.


Individual Characteristics, State Context, and Mass Attitudes in the U.S. States: The Case of Gay Rights

Heather Marie Rice
University of Pittsburgh Working Paper, August 2009

State governments are uniquely situated to educate their citizens on tolerance; not necessarily directly through traditional education or even civic education, however, but indirectly by passing tolerant policies that educate their citizens on acceptable actions and behaviors. State governments are in the best position to educate their citizens because, unlike the federal government, they are not too far removed from citizens so as to be considered impersonal but also not too close, like local governments, so as to be disregarded as unimportant or irrelevant. Here, I analyze the relationship between public opinion and state-level policies toward the gay community. Specifically, using the ANES 2000-2002-2004 panel study, I model the relationship between individual characteristics, state characteristics, and attitudes toward the gay community as a multilevel growth model. Modeling attitudes in this way - as a function of individual and state characteristics - takes significant steps toward creating methodological models that are a closer reflection of reality than more traditional methods. The results suggest that public perceptions of the gay community are strongly influenced by the policy position in the state. If a state has favorable policies toward the gay community, the citizens within that state will hold favorable attitudes toward the community, and vice versa. This implies that the state context has a nontrivial influence on individual citizen attitudes and that perhaps the traditional view of representation (citizens influence elites) may not hold in the realm of gay rights.


Detecting Discrimination against Homosexuals: Evidence from a Field Experiment on the Internet

Ali Ahmed & Mats Hammarstedt
Economica, July 2009, Pages 588-597

This paper presents the first field experiment studying discrimination against homosexuals on the housing market. The study is conducted on the rental housing market in Sweden using the internet as a research platform. Two fictitious couples, one heterosexual and one male homosexual, apply for vacant rental apartments advertised by landlords on the internet. Our findings show that homosexual males are discriminated against on the Swedish housing market, since the homosexual couple gets far fewer call-backs and fewer invitations to further contacts and to showings of apartments than the heterosexual couple.


Does Believing Homosexuality Is Innate Increase Support for Gay Rights?

Gregory Lewis
Policy Studies Journal, November 2009, Pages 669-693

Why are Americans who believe homosexuality is innate more likely to support the rights of lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals (LGBs)? Attribution theory suggests that people are more likely to support LGB rights if they do not blame LGBs for their sexual orientation. Alternatively, moral condemnation of homosexuality may lead both to belief that homosexuality is a choice and opposition to LGB rights, while acceptance of LGB rights may lead to a belief in a biological basis for homosexuality as part of a constellation of tolerant beliefs. Using logit analysis on individual-level data from 24 national surveys conducted since 1977, I find that the link between belief in a biological basis for homosexuality and support for LGB rights is strong and growing for almost all groups on almost all issues. The reason may have more to do with people shaping their origin beliefs to match their political and religious values, than with origin beliefs affecting support for LGB rights.


Transmission of Attitudes Toward Abortion and Gay Rights: Effects of Genes, Social Learning and Mate Selection

Lindon Eaves & Peter Hatemi
Behavior Genetics, May 2008, Pages 247-256

The biological and social transmission of attitudes toward abortion and gay rights are analyzed in a large sample of adult twins, siblings, and their parents. We present a linear model for family resemblance allowing for both genetic and cultural transmission of attitudes from parents to offspring, as well as phenotypic assortative mating (the tendency to marry like) and other environmental sources of twin and sibling resemblance that do not depend on the attitudes of their parents. The model gives a close fit to the patterns of similarity between relatives for the two items. Results are consistent with a substantial role of genetic liability in the transmission of both attitudes. Contrary to the dominant paradigm of the social and political sciences, the kinship data are consistent with a relatively minor non-genetic impact of parental attitudes on the development of adult attitudes in their children. By contrast, the choice of mate is a social action that has a marked impact on the polarization of social attitudes and on the long-term influence that parents exert upon the next generation.


Abuse, Mastery, and Health Among Lesbian, Bisexual, and Two-Spirit American Indian and Alaska Native Women

Keren Lehavot, Karina Walters & Jane Simoni
Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, July 2009, Pages 275-284

American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) women have endured a history of colonial oppression in the United States. Current manifestations of colonization include an epidemic of violence toward AIAN women, who often are sexually and physically abused from early on in life. Such violence may erode AIAN women's sense of agency or mastery and contribute to their poor physical and mental health outcomes. AIAN women who identify as lesbian, bisexual, or "two-spirit" appear to experience disproportionate levels of violence and may be particularly vulnerable to disparities in health outcomes. In this study, 152 sexual minority AIAN women were interviewed as part of an investigation addressing the health concerns of two-spirit persons. Participants reported disturbingly high prevalence of both sexual (85%) and physical (78%) assault, both of which were associated with worse overall mental and physical health. These relationships generally were mediated by a diminished sense of control or mastery. The need to indigenize the concept of mastery is discussed, as is the urgency of interventions to work toward decreasing levels of abuse and increasing mastery among sexual minority AIAN women.


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