What Young New Yorkers Really Think About Gay Marriage

We hear a lot about how support for same-sex marriage is much stronger amongst young people than it is amongst old people. The New York Times hit the streets of the city and did one-on-one interviews with the youngsters they found about their views on same sex marriage. This interactive map/etc is pretty f*cking awesome to play with! You can listen to all of these people talk! It’s so rad! (Except for the guy who says gay people are going to “get their health insurance regardless” and “all the things they need to be happy” without marriage and therefore why do we need marriage? That idea is less rad. But worth listening to, because we should know how people feel on both sides. )

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

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  1. Huh. Interesting, especially to note the ethnicities of the people who are against or uncomfortable with same-sex marriage.

    • Note: Please don’t assume I’m making broad generalizations; obviously the responses were mixed. It’s just interesting to see the cultural trends. It’d be good to follow through with this and expand to see if there are ways we can target cultural groups more effectively to sway their opinion on same-sex marriage.

      • I noticed the same thing. It’s a fact that racial minorities support marriage less than white people. I’m white, but I have seen it explained as a homophobia that pervades that black community (black men face extra pressure to be manly) and the Hispanic community is very religious and more Catholic. I don’t think that’s racist to say — every black/white/etc person doesn’t have the same life experience or same beliefs. Some speculated that the high number of black voters turning out to elect Obama were also the voters who supported defining marriage traditionally, specifically in the razor-thin Prop 8 referendum in California. Then, people came out and said that’s racist and you can’t blame blacks anymore than you can blame any other segment of the population. Maybe. But anecdotally it seems pretty accurate to me. And maybe this is when people start getting offended, but is it true that the more educated someone is, the more likely they are to support gay marriage? It seems like would be true. Perhaps the same for wealth. I’m all Googled out today to check.

        • There’s a whole lot of research on hypermascunity and sexuality within minority communities. I can dig up some links for you, if you’d like. Interestingly, I’d argue that homophobia found within POC communities is largely a legacy of colonialism and past oppressions. One of the key ways that European colonists established cultural hegemony was by erasing the belief systems of indigenous and African people, which may have been accepting of queer sexualities and gender presentations, and replacing them with Judeo-Christian beliefs, which were definitely not queer friendly at the time. A great non-American example of this would be India, which has rich history of embracing and documenting queer subjects, including third-gender communities, that was silenced by the British Raj’s criminalization of homosexuality.

          As for Prop 8…
          52% of votes were a yes. According to the census on 6.2% of the California population is black. We tend to vote in smaller numbers than other populations, so even if every black person in Cali voted yes, there’s still the question of where that other 46.8% who voted yes came from. A quick look at the breakdown by counties on Wikipedias also shows this discrepancy. I think the exit poll data was very sketchy and the issue was extremely emotional and we all wanted someone to blame, but the racism and ugliness that arose out of prop 8 was completely unwarranted, as my amateur number crunching hopefully shows.

          • Whoops, amateur number crunching would be assuming that voting populations are equal to total california population, which is not the case…oh well.
            I’m not too great at math, says the paid math tutor :/

          • Yes, I agree that you can’t blame black people for Prop 8 passing anymore than you can blame Scott Norwood (football kicker) for losing the Super Bowl for the Bills (he missed a field goal in the final seconds of play that would’ve won the game.) The fact is, the Bills could’ve just played better offense and scored more touchdowns or the defense could’ve done a better job on scoring. It wasn’t all about poor Scott Norwood. But I think it’s an interesting and not entirely worthless analysis to notice that blacks turned out in higher numbers than usual to vote for Obama, but the black demographic heavily leans toward traditional marriage, which could’ve (probably have) been the tipping point. It’s like if the Bills had a different kicker who always scores long-range field goals that skipped the game and Scott Norwood filled in. Obama is the really good kicker in that analogy, I guess. But it’s funny, in the conservative Southern state I currently reside, a state legislator (a Democrat!) running for U.S. Senate decided to score some brownie points with conservative voters by pushing a ban on same-sex marriage for the general election ballot. Ultimately, conservative voters turned out in higher than normal numbers to vote to ban gay marriage. But those same voters rejected the Democrat, voting for the Republican he was running against. He lost the Senate seat by like 1%. If the conservative voters had stayed home, he would’ve won. So, I guess my point is, if we want to be smart about fighting for gay rights, it doesn’t hurt to know which demographics will help and hurt us. We are broken into demographics constantly, all of us. Race, age, gender, sexuality, religion, location, income, etc. I get annoyed when people wrongly assume things about my demographic, but I get it. I don’t think it’s wrong to admit that black people as a whole are among the least accepting (when only looking at race) of homosexuality. There is progress to be made there.

          • “I’d argue that homophobia found within POC communities is largely a legacy of colonialism and past oppressions. One of the key ways that European colonists established cultural hegemony was by erasing the belief systems of indigenous and African people, which may have been accepting of queer sexualities and gender presentations, and replacing them with Judeo-Christian beliefs, which were definitely not queer friendly at the time.”

            Very true, and also that anti-/post-colonial identities were/are often formed to fill the perceived cultural void left by the European indoctrination, i.e., if we are not European, then what are we? Well, we’re Muslim/Hindu/African/whatever, so what does that mean? And that leads to essentialism which goes hand in hand with fundamentalism. Not to mention that this was directly encouraged by colonial powers (they divided every society they ruled into strictly reified, often imaginary communities in order to organize and better conquer the populace.)

            Sometimes these two phenomena even combine– so that the demarcation of difference between the colonized and the former colonizer becomes the values that the colonizer actually gave the colonized in the first place. Sodomy laws are a good example of that… many countries which only began criminalizing homosexual acts under the British now utilize polemic about how homosexuality is a Western problem, and unlike Western nations their cultures do not tolerate it, etc. Weird historical patterns, but the point being that we shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back for being part of the progressive bourgeois.

          • Just to clarify: not that anyone here is “patting themselves on the back”– I think everyone here is on the same page with the anti-racism. Just that it’s a big pet peeve of mine among some queer people.

  2. I love how a lot of the people who are for are citing as one of their reasons the fact that they know someone who is LGBT, and that made them want to support it. It just highlights once again the importance of being out- we really do change people’s minds when they know us personally!

      • truth. them damn yankees. with their accents and all.

        my dad told me when i was a kid that “damnyankee” was one word. that’s how texan that man was.

        • You must be so proud. My personal favorite has always been “gawdernit”. But “lannstarz”, “howdido”, and “jeetyet?” can of course claim honorable mentions in the halls of Texas-ism.

          Ps- for foreigner’s sakes, the above translated, in order: “G-d darn it”, “Land stars”, “How do you do”, “Did you eat yet?”

          • I must ask what the appropriate occasion to utilize “lannstarz” is, a phrase this Californian has never heard of. :P

          • It is an expression of surprise, somewhat similar in use to, “Well ah’ll be!” It is often used in conjunction with “hunnychild”, as in: “Lannstarz, hunnychild, how’dyou get all that dirt on your face?!” It should be noted that an individual does not need to be an actual legal minor in order to be addressed as “hunnychild”, as long as the person addressing them is female.

  3. interesting to see that religion isn’t such a big part of people’s opinion about gay marriage, but more or less their personal experience (or lack of) with lgbt people. it’s good to see that people from different religious backgrounds are at least questioning the traditional views on it.

    what really bugged me was that last guy. you can ONLY get married in a church and NO church accepts gay marriage?????? ftw really papi??? really? i don’t know ignorance is something that’s hard for me to tolerate.

    • And he’s totally wrong anyway; there are quite a few churches that perform gay marriages/unions – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blessing_of_same-sex_unions_in_Christian_churches#Churches_favorable_to_same-sex_marriage

      But yeah, the religious argument is ridiculous, because not only do not all marriages take place in a church (as you pointed out), but the government can’t force the churches to marry anyone – it’s called the First Amendment, people!

    • People against with gay marriage were a minority in that piece, but I STILL wanted to hop a plane over there to have a discussion because a lot of them based their opposing positions on viewpoints that were not very well informed…Like the guy who said marriage was unnecessary because gay people have what they need just by living together. Argh.

      (See also: xkcd comic about people being wrong on the internet)

      • That kind of reminds me of some troll on Jezebel who said that queers don’t need romantic advice because we have “bigger problems.”

    • I too was like, “whaaaaaa? Read books, young man. You know what? Read all of them.”

      But really, it is still interesting to hear what people are misinformed about and how these pieces of misinformation can be the basis of homophobic opinion.

    • Knowing a gay person is the ultimate way to change someone’s mind about gay rights. Once it becomes a person you care about and not some foreign idea of “those people,” the effect is profound. I’ve seen it in my family. Coming out is important. And yet, I don’t tell my co-workers. Gahh!

  4. This is really fascinating, although it seems strange that no one who identified as gay was around when they were doing these interviews (I know there were two bisexual respondents which is just as queer, but I just thought it was noteworthy.)

    Any correlation between answers and religion/ethnicity would be more comment-worthy if this were a larger study and not just a random sampling. I think actually what’s more interesting about this is just the extreme multiculturalism of NYC and how that kind of creates its own New York culture.

    • I can imagine the editors may have assumed that including gay people was somewhat irrelevant as the assumption is we’re all for it.

      • That’s the conclusion I came to as well, but as a gay person who doesn’t support any kind of marriage it still bothered me. I know there are plenty of other gay people in New York who feel the same way, because I read their tumblrs. It would have been cool to hear from one of them, but maybe they were too busy sewing patches on their hoodies at an anarcha-feminist social event.

      • As “Buffy” points out, though, I think this is actually becoming a real problem. The assumption that all queers are simply, uncritically “for” gay marriage–meaning, that we all want to get married–is a hop away from the implication that all queer people _should want_ to get married. The notion that queer folks have “no opinions” about gay marriage contributes to the continued erasure of critiques of marriage as a social institution, and leaves heteronormativity (or “homonormativity,” to borrow Lisa Duggan’s helpful phrase) unmarked and unquestioned.

        This silence simply isn’t politically necessary anymore, especially as the legalization of gay marriage continues to spread in the US. While I will continue to support gay marriage for the sake of others, I certainly don’t think that those of us who are critical of the institution and its promises should pipe down or remain in the background so folks can just enjoy their hard-fought gay weddings while the institution of marriage itself continues to screw other people over.

        Notably, the bisexual dude who is interviewed seems to register some of these concerns, as do a few others, but I think there needs to be a more concerted effort on the part of mainstream media outlets to pay attention to the (ongoing, developed, thoughtful) objections to marriage–and not just in the style of Dan Savage’s critique of monogamy, which leaves the centrality of marriage and child-rearing largely unquestioned–as the inevitable life goal for everyone.

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