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U.S. men’s professional sports finally joins gay rights trend

Monday, April 29, 2013

NEW YORK — Jason Collins, who came out Monday as gay while still an active NBA player, broke one of the last remaining barriers in North America for gays and lesbians in era of constant political gains and ever-growing public acceptance.

In most other realms of public life — including the military, Congress, the corporate boardroom — gays have been taking their place as equals. Until Monday, however, no male athlete had come out as gay while still an active player on any team in the four major North American pro sports leagues.

Jason Collins

“Today’s announcement again shows that gay Americans are our teachers, police officers, nurses, lawyers and even our professional athletes,” said the president of the largest national gay-rights group, Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign.

“We contribute to every aspect of our American community and deserve the same equal rights as every American,” he said.

Beyond sports, the most dramatic barometer of shifting attitudes has been public opinion on same-sex marriage. The latest Gallup Poll on that issue pegged national support at 53 percent, up nearly twofold from 27 percent in 1996.

That change has been reflected in the political arena.

Rhode Island, with a key vote in the state Senate last week, put itself on track to become the 10th state to legalize same-sex marriage. Bills proposing to take the same step are pending in Minnesota, Delaware and Illinois.

Gay-rights supporters hope the trend will be reflected in rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, expected in June, on whether the federal government should recognize same-sex marriages and on whether a ban on such marriages in California should be struck down.

Pollsters say there are two main reasons why many Americans who formerly opposed gay marriage are now supporting it. Many say it’s because they know someone who is gay — a family member, friend or acquaintance — while others say their views evolved as they thought more about the issue.

Public opinion also played a role in the 2011 repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that had barred gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. By the time that top military commanders and most members of Congress joined the repeal bandwagon, a majority of the public already was supporting a change in the policy.

In Congress, there are now a record seven openly gay or bisexual members, including Democrat Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay U.S. senator. Sympathetic gay characters abound on popular TV shows, in films and in comic books.

In America’s workplaces, the picture is somewhat mixed. A majority of states have no laws banning job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. And yet, most major corporations have equal-opportunity policies for gays, often including extension of domestic-partnership benefits.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, 13 major employers earned a perfect score in 2001 when it started an index to rate businesses on gay-friendly employment practices. This year, 252 businesses received perfect scores.

Even with all the momentum for various gay-rights advances, public opinion on some fundamental questions about homosexuality remains markedly divided.

According to the General Social Survey, conducted annually by independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago, disapproval of gay sex peaked in 1987, when 76 percent of Americans thought sexual relations between adults of the same sex was always wrong.

In the 2012 survey, which involved interviews with 1,974 U.S. adults, 43 percent felt that way, while just as many said gay sex was not morally wrong at all. African-Americans were less accepting of homosexuality than whites or Hispanics, with 58 percent of the black respondents saying same-sex sexual relations are always wrong.

Nonetheless, the Rev. Al Sharpton, a leading black civil rights activist, was among those welcoming the announcement by Collins, who also is black.

“I call on others in the civil rights community and the African-American leadership of all fields to embrace this development,” Sharpton said. “We can’t be custodians of intolerance and freedom fighters at the same time.”

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12 more reader comments:

  1. meanwhile pro female athletes have been out for decades

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 8:19pm
  2. uh… gay rights shouldn’t be a “trend” it should be a fact of life. Just saying.

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 8:23pm
  3. Him coming out shows how accepting everyone is being. I haven’t heard any hate coming from this. In fact I was watching the news and they were talking about this and one of the news guys was saying that with people like this guy coming out wont even be needed. A gay boy or girl will just come home and tell them they have a bf/gf. I truly have faith that the term “it gets better” will be a goal reached where we can say “it is better”.

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 8:23pm
  4. Let’s be serious. Football, Baseball, Basketball, and Hockey teams that are comprised of males are significantly more popular than women’s sports. There is also more social acceptance of gay women over gay men.

    This is a big deal.

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 8:26pm
  5. One guy comes out, and now mens sports as a whole has joined the trend? A little trigger happy, arent ya LGBTQ?

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 8:28pm
  6. I wish it wasn’t true, but I believe it is.

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 8:28pm
  7. only takes 1 person to make the first step. when others realize its safe to do so, there will be more.

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 8:35pm
  8. forty-four years after the Stonewall Uprising ONE gay man finally feels safe enough to come out because the NBA NFL MLB & NHL are run by gay bashing thugs. Add one more reason why Congress needs to pass ENDA so we all do not have to worry about being fired for coming out

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 8:35pm
  9. Glad that the tide is turning … slowly … :) Next … NFL … MMA … etc. … surprise – we are there … that is how I see it … :)

    Posted on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 8:40pm
  10. Trend?

    Posted on Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 6:07am
  11. I find it interesting when African Americans get upset when Gay people compare our civil rights struggle with the Black struggle. Like Black people have a patient on civil rights. The big one is ” We couldn’t hide our blackness ” I ask you if there was a pill to make to white back then, would you have taken it? Hell no, because you were proud of who you are. Well what if you were a Gay man in the 50′s? He had to hid or kill himself. Marry a women he wasn’t sexually attracted to , just to “fit in” then in his 60, he came out to a hated wife and children, because he just couldn’t hide any longer. Yeah, those Gay people in the 50′s really had it so good.

    Posted on Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 8:58am
  12. Hopefully more sports stars will come and act as positive role models for the young gay community.

    Posted on Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 11:02am