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When Familiarity Breeds Tolerance

Steve Chapman recounts his personal journey from homophobe to gay rights advocate:

It's easy to be homophobic if you don't know anyone who is openly gay. But that's true of fewer and fewer people. As gays have become forthright about their sexual orientation, the rest of us have had to assess them not as gays, but as whole human beings... In 1985, only 22 percent of us said they had a friend who was gay. By 2008, 66 percent did. And attitudes have followed. In 1982, only 34 percent of Americans regarded "homosexuality as an acceptable alternative lifestyle." Today, it's 57 percent.

Familiarity, in this case, doesn't breed contempt. It breeds acceptance. Heterosexuals have always lived and worked with gays, but without knowing it. Once they find out, most learn they have more similarities than differences. If the military's ban on open gays is repealed, a lot of people in uniform will soon come to the same realization. Many already have.