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According to both the contact hypothesis and gay rights advocates, coming out to straight friends and family members should increase acceptance of homosexuality and support for gay rights. If lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals (LGBs) come out primarily to people they expect to be accepting, however, the repeated finding that people who know LGBs are more likely to support gay rights could be overstating the impact of coming out. Using individual-level data from 27 national surveys, I find that similar variables predict both knowing LGBs and supporting gay rights, but in different ways. Even after controlling for those demographic, religious, and political variables – and sometimes also for beliefs about whether some people are born gay and whether homosexuality is immoral –people who know LGBs are much more likely to support gay rights. The effect holds for every issue, in every year, for every type of relationship, and for every demographic, religious, and political sub-group.


This is the accepted version of the following article:

Gregory B. Lewis, The Friends and Family Plan: Assessing the Impact of Knowing Someone Gay on Support for Gay Rights "Policy Studies Journal Volume 39, Issue 2, pages 217–238, May 2011.

This article has been published in final form at DOI: 10.1111/j.1541-0072.2011.00405.x