Changes in Policy Positively Affect Changes in Acceptance

Reviewed by Timothy Ward

Does Policy Adoption Change
Opinions on Minority Rights? The
Effects of Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage
Rebecca J. Kreitzer, Allison J. Hamilton, and Caroline J. Tolbert1

This fascinating study examined the role that policy changes have in altering public acceptance for the LGBT community. This study looked for the relationship between individual levels of acceptance and changes in public policy, to understand if court decisions are actually changing attitudes toward LGBT communities. This study took an in depth approach by examining, race, age, gender, education, religion.
Specifically, the study examined an Iowa court decision Varnum v. Brien , which was the ground breaking decision legalizing same-sex marriage in the state of Iowa. The study conducted phone surveys within two weeks, before and after, the court decision. This allowed them to focus on the impact of the court decision, before the ruling took effect. Researchers explored the reactions from the court ruling, asking respondents question about their political ideology and religious affiliation. Essentially, this study wanted to see the effect of what legitimizing same-sex marriage would have on an individual’s level of acceptance for LGBT communities.
The researchers randomly selected Iowa registered voters and received over a thousand valid responses. The political and religious breakdown of the study was representative of the greater voting base of Iowa. The majority of respondents from the first wave of interviews also participated in the second wave. This is significant because it allowed the study to reasonably measure any changes in opinions. The study explored a plethora of variables which in combination might effect the level acceptance for same-sex marriage due to a change in policy.
Initially, this study suggested that views toward same-sex marriage based on party lines or religiosity would not change. But overall the study showed that legitimizing public policy though a court decision does change people’s views toward same-sex marriage in a positive way. The research especially points out how those respondents who were considered more conservative, but who also had a friend or co-worker who was LGBT, were much more likely to change, in favor of accepting same-sex marriage, as a result of the court ruling. The study does admit that some level of backlash; that is individuals who had a negative view toward same-sex marriage before the court decision and have not since changed their views, did exist. However, it is undeniable that the impact of a change in public policy that legalizes same-sex marriage left a more accepting state of Iowa for LGBT communities.
In my own journey I have often struggled with the idea of forcing change on people who don’t seem to want it. However, this study and those like it should serve as a testament to the legitimacy of the path that the LGBT cause has taken on the road to equality. The legal battles across this nation, which are fought by trailblazers in our communities, are making progress toward greater tolerance, acceptance, and equality. Let important research, like this study, energize and inspire LGBT communities and allies to continue the fight, because it is working.
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About Equality Research Center

The mission of the Equality Research Center is to promote, support, and disseminate research focused on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender equality and human rights. The Center is dedicated to the advancement of Equality by connecting academic, evidence based research to community action, public policy, and curricular innovation.
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