Special emphasis is given to information with relevance to public policy and law. Compared with the US adult population, respondents were younger, more highly educated, and less likely to be non-Hispanic White, but differences were observed between gender and sexual orientation groups on all of these variables. Overall, respondents tended to be politically liberal, not highly religious, and supportive of marriage equality for same-sex couples.
Women were more likely than men to be in a committed relationship. Virtually all coupled gay men and lesbians had a same-sex partner, whereas the vast majority of coupled bisexuals were in a heterosexual relationship. Compared with bisexuals, gay men and lesbians reported stronger commitment to a sexual-minority identity, greater community identification and involvement, and more extensive disclosure of their sexual orientation to others. Most respondents reported experiencing little or no choice about their sexual orientation.
The importance of distinguishing among lesbians, gay men, bisexual women, and bisexual men in behavioral and social research is discussed.
These three passages, all excerpted from amicus briefs submitted jointly by the American Psychological Association APA and other professional organizations in court cases involving gay rights, illustrate some of the ways in which descriptive data about the lesbian, gay, and bisexual population are relevant to policy debates. In each instance, the APA and its co-amici summarized current knowledge about an aspect of the US gay, lesbian, and bisexual population that was relevant to a question being considered by the court—respectively, how many gay men and lesbians are involved in a committed relationship, how many are parents, and how many experience their sexual orientation as a choice.
Yet, in each instance, the briefs could not provide definitive population estimates because relevant data were not available from nationally representative samples of self-identified gay, lesbian, and bisexual adults. The need for data describing the gay, lesbian, and bisexual population is not limited to legal proceedings.
As Black et al.
Population data describing lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals also have important scientific implications insofar as they can inform researchers who study the gay, lesbian, and bisexual population. Examination of demographic, social, and psychological patterns in the population, for example, can highlight gaps in current scientific knowledge and suggest hypotheses for empirical testing. Reliable estimates of the extent to which various characteristics and experiences are present in the sexual-minority population can also assist researchers in interpreting data from nonprobability samples and assessing their likely generalizability.
To date, however, most social science knowledge about people who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual has been based on data from nonprobability samples.