Houston Mirrors National Trends on Gay Marriage Attitudes

Photo by Flickr user Alex Steffler.

The majority of Harris County residents were already supportive of gay marriage by the time the United States Supreme Court made it the law of the land across the country. A full 51 percent of people surveyed in the annual Kinder Houston Area Survey in 2015 said they supported gay marriages being given the same legal status as heterosexual marriages. In 2017, that number climbed to 60 percent of all Harris County respondents. But it’s been a gradual shift, up from only 31 percent in 1993.

What’s driving that change? For one, more people said they personally knew someone who was gay. “In 2017, 56 percent of area residents said they did indeed have a close personal friend who was gay or lesbian, up from 41 percent in 2004,” reads the report. A longitudinal analysis of respondents over the years revealed that not only have younger generations proved more open to gay marriage but older generations in Harris County have also shifted their views over time. The analysis looked specifically at white Baby Boomers, the largest racial group in that generation of respondents, and found, “Only 29 percent in the 1990s, for example, were in favor of homosexuals being legally permitted to adopt children, but that was true of 54 and 51 percent in more recent years. The percentages in favor of gay marriage grew from 38 percent in the early years to 50 percent in the surveys asked in 2012–2017.”

That matches a broader shift happening nationally, according to the Pew Research Center. For the first time, a majority of Baby Boomers said they supported gay marriage being legal in a poll conducted in June. A full 56 percent said they approved, up from just one year ago when only 46 percent of Baby Boomers favored gay marriage.

Majorities of Millennials, Gen X and Boomers now favor same-sex marriage

That national poll also found positive shifts in other groups, including Republicans. In 2017, support and opposition is nearly even split among Republicans and Republican-leaning respondents but that marks a huge change from just a few years ago when, in 2013, almost two-thirds of respondents said they opposed gay marriage.

Such support however does not mean legal challenges have subsided. In a recent decision, the Texas Supreme Court threw out a lower court ruling arguing that the federal ruling which legalized gay marriage did not resolve whether it protected state spousal benefits for gay marriages.

“The City of Houston will continue to be an inclusive city that respects the legal marriages of all employees,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner in a statement after the decision. “Marriage equality is the law of the land, and everyone is entitled to the full benefits of marriage, regardless of the gender of their spouse.”

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Leah Binkovitz

Leah Binkovitz is Senior Editor with the Kinder Institute for Urban Research.

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