The rights of people with homosexual orientation are restricted all over the world. In some countries, initiatives called for a change in the status quo and citizens were given an opportunity to vote on rights of homosexual people in referendums. The first time that a state legalised same-sex marriage through a popular vote happened in Ireland. In 2015, the Constitution of Ireland was amended to permit marriage of two persons without distinction as to their sex after a majority of citizens supported it in a referendum.
In other countries, homosexual people face discrimination through referendums that aim to restrict their rights. Such situation occurred in Slovakia in 2015 when citizens voted on restriction of gay marriages and gay adoptions in the so called “Referendum on the Family”. Opponents of the referendum called for a boycott of the Referendum on the Family as a strategy to render it invalid, which eventually happened – the voter turn-out was only 21% as compared to the minimal 50% necessary for the referendum to be valid. Zingora and Graf (2019) investigated factors that related to the probability of voting for the restriction of gay rights versus boycotting the Referendum on the Family.
Contact between members of different social groups has been shown to reduce prejudice against multiple social groups at once. Zingora and Graf investigated whether contact with homosexual people and members of another stigmatized minority – the Roma – was linked to actual behaviour – voting in vs. boycott of the Slovak referendum. They found that the more positive contact with homosexual people, and interestingly, also the Roma participants experienced, the less likely they were to vote for the restriction of homosexual rights and instead boycotted the referendum. In contrast, negative contact with both the Roma and homosexual people was associated with higher chances that participants voted for the restriction of homosexual rights.
Zingora and Graf (2019) also studied the mechanism explaining the link between contact with the Roma and homosexual people and voting in the referendum. The more positive contact with the Roma and homosexual people participants experienced, the less threatened they felt by these groups. Participants who felt less threatened were less likely to vote for the restriction of homosexual rights. In contrast, the more negative contact participants reported, the more threatened they felt and the more likely they were to vote for the restriction of homosexual rights.
Although the data do not allow for causal conclusions, they indicated that contact was linked to discriminatory practices that could affect minority rights. Thus, this study suggests that contact with members of stigmatized groups can contribute to more just society – potentially changing the status quo of stigmatized groups.
Zingora, T., & Graf, S. (2019). Marry who you love: Intergroup contact with gay people and another stigmatized minority is related to voting on the restriction of gay rights through threat. Journal of Applied Social Psychology. doi:10.1111/jasp.12627