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The problem of homophobia has existed in the human population through its whole history. Homophobia could be defined as “an attitude of hostility toward male or female homosexuals” (Fraïssé and Barrientos 65). During the XX century, the public attitude toward homosexuality was evolving, and this process has found its reflection in the legislation procedure, in particular, in same-sex marriage legalization in various countries. It is important to study the social consequences of this process. Therefore, it is hypothesized that the same-sex marriage legalization affected the public attitude and decreased the level of homophobia.
Same-sex Marriage Legalization
The process of same-sex marriage legalization started at the end of the XX century in the Western world. The process of legal recognition of, at first, homosexual domestic partnership and then same-sex marriages started in countries of the European Union (Hooghe and Meeusen 258). Nowadays, there are twenty-two countries around the globe where same-sex marriage is recognized by law and thirteen countries where a civil union is legal. At the same time, there are seventy-five countries where homosexuality is illegal, including ten countries where it could be punished by the death penalty (Cameron and Berkowitz). The general tendency is the following: same-sex marriage and partnership are legal in Western Europe, North and South America (except for Guyana where gay acts could be punished), Australia, and New Zealand. Homosexual relations are considered to be illegal in the majority of African and Asian countries. Therefore, despite all the positive changes, it could be stated that the problem of homophobia is still urgent. It is also important to discover how homosexual relationship legalization affected the attitude of society toward homosexuality.
The Impact of Legalization on the Public Attitude
The process of legislation was not the same in different countries. In some of them, it was easy, and without long-term debates, while in others, this process took a long time and faced social and political resistance (Hooghe and Meeusen 258). It was stated that the level of tolerance, in general, corresponds to the level of democratic stability and economic development. It could be supposed that to completely accept homosexuality, a certain level of social development is essential (Hooghe and Meeusen 261). However, it is known less about the reaction of the society on same-sex marriage legalization. A few studies provided information about the effect of legislation on the public attitude and the level of homophobia (Hooghe and Meeusen 258).
One of the existing problems in this area is a problem of a homophobia measurement. It was stated that the large-scale survey is a commonly used tool for social processes estimation (Szalma and Takács 13). In particular, the European social survey (ESS) (Hooghe and Meeusen 259), the European Values Study (EVS) (Szalma and Takács 14), and the General Social Survey of U.S. adults (GSS) (Twenge et al. 1716) were used to estimate global changes in public attitude toward homosexuality in European countries and the United States.
The ESS is “a high-quality cross-sectional repeated survey conducted five times between 2002 and 2010” (Hooghe and Meeusen 259). It was conducted in thirty European countries and Israel. The survey contained a wide range of questions about public opinion and attitude toward different social processes. According to Hooghe and Meeusen (265), the strong dependence between same-sex marriage legalization and the public attitude exists. In general, homosexual marriage and partnership were legalized in countries where the public attitude was and remains more tolerant. Moreover, in such countries as the Netherland, Belgium, Spain, Norway, and Sweden, public disapproval of homosexuality has a tendency to decrease after the legalization of same-sex marriage (Hooghe and Meeusen 256-267).
The ESV is a survey which is provided every nine years in European countries. It is also dedicated to public attitude toward different social processes, including homosexuality legalization. This survey demonstrated a general tendency to increase the tolerance toward homosexual men and women from 1980 to 2008. Results of the Szalma and Takács’ (39) investigation confirm this data. According to the authors, “Having same-sex marriage and/or registered partnership as a legal institution significantly corresponded with decreasing levels of homophobia” (Szalma and Takács 39).
Similar data were reported about the effect of same-sex marriage legislation and the level of homophobia in the U.S. The data from the GSS demonstrate the tendency of tolerance toward homosexuality increase and even higher levels of the same-sex sexual behavior acceptance (Twenge et al. 1728). Thus, American society shows the tendency to the increase of the level of homosexual men and women tolerance after same-sex marriage legalization. Therefore, it could be stated that in European countries and the United States, the legalization of homosexual marriage or partnership had a positive effect on the level of tolerance.
It was claimed that the process of legalization is possible under certain circumstances, in particular, when a society has a high level of economic development and democratic stability. Besides, the legalization act was passed in countries where the level of tolerance toward homosexuality was high. However, in developed countries, the level of homophobia has a tendency to decrease after same-sex marriage legalization. Thus, it could be concluded that the process of legalization is important for homosexuality acceptance in society.
Cameron, Darla, and Bonnie Berkowitz. “The State of Gay Rights Around the World.” The Washington Post, 2016, Web.
Fraïssé, Christèle, and Jaime Barrientos. “The Concept of Homophobia: A Psychosocial Perspective.” Sexologies, vol. 25, no. 4, 2016, pp. 65-69. Web.
Hooghe, Marc, and Cecil Meeusen. “Is Same-sex Marriage Legislation Related to Attitudes toward Homosexuality?” Sexuality Research and Social Policy, vol. 10, no. 4, 2013, pp. 258-268. Web.
Szalma, Ivett, and Judit Takács. “How to Measure Homophobia in an International Comparison?.” Družboslovne Razprave, vol. 73, 2013, pp. 11-42.
Twenge, Jean M., et al. “Changes in American Adults’ Reported Same-sex Sexual Experiences and Attitudes, 1973–2014.” Archives of Sexual Behavior, vol. 45, no.7, 2016, pp. 1713-1730. Web.