Try answering this Gallup Poll question from 2011: “Just your best guess, what percentage of Americans would you say are gay or lesbian?” The possible answers range from “less than 5%,” to “more than 25%.” Where does your estimate fall?
If you choose “more than 25%,” you concur with 35% of those polled. If you say “20% to 25%,” you concur with 17%. Half of all Americans (52%) think that homosexuals comprise at least a fifth and perhaps more than a fourth of the nation’s population.
This is a good example of how a majority can be wildly wrong.
A 2014 study by the Centers for Disease Control found that homosexuals (gays and lesbians) comprise only 1.6% of the adult population in America. (Bisexuals were counted separately at 0.7%).
It is no secret that, historically, certain cities have been considered particularly friendly toward homosexuals and that homosexuals have migrated to those cities. We would expect those cities to have high concentrations of homosexuals, and they do. At the top of the list—no surprise—is San Francisco, yet that city’s “gay-lesbian-bisexual” population (the figure is given at Wikipedia) is only 15.4% of its total population. That’s about one person in six.
The next highest proportions are found in Seattle (12.9%), Atlanta (12.8%), and Minneapolis (12.5%). Other big cities that have relatively high proportions include Orlando (7.7%), Dallas (7.0%), San Diego (6.8%), Phoenix (6.4%), New York (6.0%), and Houston (4.4%).
A more helpful way to look at the numbers is by major metropolitan areas: Atlanta/Marietta/Sandy Springs (4.3%), New York/Northern New Jersey/Long Island (2.6%), Chicago/Naperville/Joliet (3.1%), Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington (3.5%), Washington, D.C. (2.5%), Los Angeles/Long Beach/Santa Ana (2.7%).
Note that percentages drop off when one turns from a single city to a wider metropolitan area: Atlanta (12.8%) to Atlanta metro (4.3%), New York (6.0%) to New York metro (2.6%). Over the years, homosexuals have come to be concentrated in a few, mainly large cities. As a general rule, the smaller the city, the smaller the percentage.
Given these numbers, why does the average American, when asked to guess the proportion of homosexuals in the entire country, answer 20% or higher? There are two reasons: ignorance and effective propaganda on the part of homosexuals’ advocacy groups.
This misperception no doubt has much to do with the relatively quick acceptance of same-sex marriage. If homosexuals were understood to be a tiny proportion of the populace (1.6%) rather than perhaps a substantial proportion (25%), it’s unlikely that the march toward same-sex marriage would have been so rapid.
Of course, same-sex marriage is a phantasm. Such a thing doesn’t really exist, no matter what lawmakers or judges may say. Marriage, a natural human institution that predates all known religions, always has been between a man and a woman, and its essence is not changed by declaring that some other union, such as between two men or two women, now counts as a marriage. Whatever that other union might be, it isn’t a marriage.
That should be reason enough for Catholics to oppose same-sex marriage: we should oppose anything that doesn’t conform to reality. But we should oppose it without investing it with powers or dangers it doesn’t have or giving it credit it doesn’t deserve.
As we look around us, we see that marriage is on the rocks, but it wasn’t the recent drive for same-sex marriage that put it there. Marriage’s decline has been a long time in coming. While the changes being advocated by spokesmen for the 1.6% certainly will be—and have been—deleterious, a bigger problem has been something taken almost for granted by the 98.4% of the population that isn’t homosexual: divorce.
As recently as 1964, a prospective presidential nominee, Nelson Rockefeller, found his way to the Oval Office obstructed by the fact that he had been divorced. (Sixteen years later Americans elected their first divorced president, Ronald Reagan.) Almost eighty years ago, a British monarch, Edward VIII, abdicated because he wished to marry a divorcée. We can’t imagine such things causing a stir today.
Since 1969, when California was the first state to enact such a law, we have lived under a no-fault divorce regime, which basically means that a spouse can obtain a divorce at any time and for any (or no) reason. Thus we have the culturally-accepted practice of serial monogamy, the poster child for which has been Zsa Zsa Gabor, married nine times and divorced seven. But we need to keep in mind that divorce was a problem long before no-fault divorce became the norm.
I suspect divorce has undermined marriage more than has anything else, particularly when contraception is thrown into the mix. Two of the chief attributes of marriage—permanence and the rearing of children—have been removed, in whole or in part, from its practical definition.
Whatever problems same-sex marriage will bring, divorce already has given marriage a near-fatal blow. Same-sex marriage needs to be opposed vigorously, but we need to recognize it as the stepchild of a more successful evil, divorce.