Popular support for gay marriage has dropped. Blame it on identity politics?

A new opinion poll carried out by PoderData this month reveals that support for gay marriage has dropped in Brazil within a year, from 51% in January from 2021 to 45% now. Meanwhile, opposites to same-sex marriage have increased from 33% for 39%. Those who could not answer remained stable in %. The survey involved three thousand respondents spread across 70 municipalities in all states of the country, and has a margin of error of two percentage points. PodeData also detected an inverse relationship between the intensity of support for the Bolsonaro government and disapproval of gay marriage. 63% of respondents think that there is prejudice against homosexuals in Brazil — even among supporters of the president, only 18% think that prejudice does not exist.

The trend of LGBT loss of popularity seems to be observable in other western countries. The American NGO GLAAD did a survey in 2019 investigating attitudes towards sexual minorities among Americans. Among young people from 18 to 34 years old, 63% declared themselves comfortable interacting with LGBT people in 2016. The number dropped to 45% in 2019.

In Europe, there is a division between West and East on this issue. While majorities in the western part of the continent approve of gay marriage, only the Czech Republic, among eastern European countries, shows this pattern. Elsewhere in the region, majorities oppose it. It is possible that this reflects a recent change there, as Poland, for example, was one of the first countries on the continent to decriminalize homosexuality, in 1932. England and Wales only did this in 1967. Today, Poland has “LGBT-free zones”. Hungary, on the other hand, has banned information that “promotes homosexuality and gender change” in schools by law.

The Gallup Institute has been following the issue in the United States since 1997. Until 2021, American public opinion made a total reversal: from 70% contrary and % favorable at 1940 to 250 % contrary and 250% favorable in 2021. This is considered one of the most rapid changes of opinion and attitude of a society in recent history. In Brazil, in 2011 the Federal Supreme Court changed its constitutional interpretation, extending civil union to same-sex couples, which was converted into civil marriage by the CNJ soon after.

Some reasons for the drop in popularity

Social phenomena such as public opinion are multicausal. It is difficult to establish what motivations are behind each change because, as popular wisdom dictates, each head is a sentence, and this is difficult to systematize in numbers. Respondents are sensitive to a number of factors, including the way the questions were phrased and the terms—many, for example, may not be aware that gay civil marriage, under the auspices of a secular state, does not mean religious marriage is mandatory. gay, because in this case religious freedom prevails. Furthermore, the apparent drop in LGBT popularity may only be local, not representative of the general trend.

One of the reasons for the drop may be in the way in which the LGBT gained their rights. In Brazil, it was due to judicial activism, with the justification of many jurists that there was “inaction” on the part of Congress in legislating the issue. In Switzerland, gay marriage was approved by plebiscite in September 2021. In Argentina, gay marriage has been legal since 2010 and has passed through both houses of parliament, which highlights its character as a democratic decision. As social philosopher Jonathan Haidt puts it, people are sensitive to “procedural justice”: even if they disagree, they tend not to protest social decisions if they feel that rules applied equally to everyone have been followed. This impression is weakened by judicial activism, which seems more like a monocratic intervention that entails unequal treatment.

One of the activists’ own favorite explanations is that the reverse march in the perception of LGBT in some places comes from of political polarization, in which people increasingly identify themselves as belonging to one of two opposing political groups, having to follow their own group’s playbook on all sorts of issues. It is a viable hypothesis, but activists will tend to diminish their own responsibility.

Canadian psychologist Nadia Bashir, from the University of Toronto, published with collaborators in 2013 an article entitled “The ironic impact of activists: Negative stereotypes reduce the influence of social change”. The article brings a series of five studies with small samples of less than 250 people, but its merit lies in the retesting : the studies converge to a conclusion. Bashir argues that people are resistant to activists’ message because they associate activists with belligerent and eccentric figures .

Belligerence and Eccentricity

Indeed, there is a narrative that belligerence is the most important, if not the only course of action for minorities discriminated against among progressive activists. In the LGBT movement, there is an emphasis on the importance of the Stonewall uprising, which took place over fifty years ago and therefore well before the change in public opinion observed since 1997 in the United States. This phenomenon, of exaggerating the importance of “struggle” and diminishing the importance of persuasion, is also observed in the academic interpretation of the abolition of slavery. As psychologist Steven Pinker says in the book ‘The Best Angels of Our Nature’, persuasion, for example via fiction books, was very important for the abolition of slavery – but Marxist historians try to reduce it to the economic interests of the British Empire. There is, therefore, an emphasis without much commitment to evidence in groups in conflict, which becomes worse when there is an adoption of identity politics or identity, which emphasizes dichotomies such as oppressor vs. overwhelmed. Many of the activists try to credit their belligerence for advances.

Erica Chenoweth, professor of international relations at the University of Denver, Colorado, is one of the leading experts on the subject of the effectiveness of violent activism. Using a sample of campaigns for social change since the 1940 years, she shows that violent ones in general fail and non-violent ones in general fail. are successful, which raises doubts about the narrative of many activists about the reason for the success of their activism.

For the Minas Gerais lawyer Hugo Freitas, who has worked with marriage and divorce same sex, the decriminalization of homosexuality in Brazil in 1830 “was a result of classical liberalism. The greater tolerance of homosexuality in society today was the result of non-coercive social movements. Gays owe nothing to state punitivism.” The British historian Rictor Norton agrees: studying homosexuality in the United Kingdom during the 18th century, Norton points out that gays, when arrested for the crime of sodomy, at a certain point began to use John Locke’s liberal argument in self-defense: “There is no Crime in making the use I want of my own Body,” said William Brown, arrested for sodomy in 1726. In addition, the principle of equal treatment before the law comes from liberalism, which forms the basis for the argument in favor of gay civil marriage.

There is a punitive and authoritarian verve in the most recent versions of the LGBT movement, who moved away from scientific discussions of the origins of homosexuality and embraced the “queer theory”, derived from postmodernism, a progressive intellectual movement born in the academy that preaches moral relativism, relativism regarding knowledge and the “deconstruction” of “meta-narratives” such as science and religion, as well as subjectivism. This is reflected in the change of the acronym from LGBT to LGBTQ: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people — an American term that was pejorative , but now designates vague identities that are virtually non-existent among non-left people. Despite relativism, there is an incoherent insistence on policies such as the criminalization of “hate speech”, which is considered really wrong, without relativism, in the name of which any commitment to freedom of expression is abandoned. Social networks, which censor using ratings from fact-checking agencies, also censor people who use terms considered derogatory against LGBT, even if they are LGBT.

The preference for postmodernism and eccentricity highlights the division with the population and common sense, which is exacerbated when activists insist, for example, that we should doubt our own eyes (and inconvenient scientific studies) about transgender athletes having biological advantages in women’s sport. They also ignore the high dropout rate among so-called “transgender children”, insisting on risky treatments such as blocking puberty. The governor of the state of Virginia lost the last election because he did not place enough emphasis, in the opinion of many analysts, on the opposition to racial identity politics in schools. Pushing messages of identity into education is a recipe for loss of popularity.

The scientific message is important: Swedish psychologists Mikael Landén and Sune Innala, in an article by 2014, based on a sample of nearly 700 fellow citizens, conclude that “those who view homosexuality as rooted in biology tend to favor extending rights to gays and lesbians.” Activists bet on postmodernism and radical sociological hypotheses that glorify the “struggle” at their own peril.

Due to all of the above factors, LGBT people themselves are starting to pay the price. by the anti-scientific, belligerent and purposefully eccentric message of many activists who speak on his behalf, but have not received a vote to do so. Placing the blame on a prejudiced right is not a hypothesis that will fully account for the phenomenon of the apparent loss of popularity of these minorities.


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