The Oscar-winning movie “Dallas Buyers Club” brought a vivid reminder of the harsh realities of what it was like to be a gay in the culturally conservative South of the mid-1980s. As someone born, churched, and educated in the South during that era, I remember that the idea of being gay or lesbian was simply dismissed, and the term “homosexuality” was reserved for hushed conversations about those sinful urban areas far north and west of the Mason-Dixon Line. While the film has been in theaters, however, the news has also been filled with contemporary coverage of a remarkable bevy of judicial decisions overturning bans on same-sex marriage in southern states such as Virginia, Kentucky, and Texas. While serving as the lead author of a recent study from the PRRI about attitudes about same-sex marriage, I was astounded at the shifts we found in southern attitudes over the past decade.” (Robert P. Jones, Public Religion Research Inst., The Atlantic, March 10, 2014)
During the generation gap 10 years ago when the majority of same-sex- bans were legislated and implemented across the southern states, the vast majority of today’s “Millennials” were neither counted in public-opinion surveys of adults nor eligible to vote.” Their attitudes diverge a great deal from those of parents and grandparents.
“Nationwide, nearly seven in 10 (69 percent) Americans ages 18 to 33 favor same-sex marriage, compared to just 37 percent of Americans ages 68 and older. This generation gap is evident in virtually every subgroup in America, including southerners.”
Southern hospitality creates a “growing friends and family effect” which is changing southern attitudes.” More gay – lesbian southerners are coming out to those closest to them; 64 percent of southerners today claim a family member or close friend is gay or lesbian helping to influence support for marriage equality; 56 percent of that group favor legal gay marriage; intimate social connections have moved the debate from the abstract to the personal, to one about the rightness of denying legal recognition for the relationships and commitments of close LGBT friends and family members.
Today, nearly two thirds of southern millennials (65 percent) support same-sex marriage, compared to just 28 % of southerners in the “silent eneration.”