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ABC News Tests
Tolerance, With Surprising Results

ABC News Tests
Tolerance, With Surprising Results

What would you do if you witnessed a gay bashing in the making?

What would you do if you witnessed a gay bashing in the making?

That is the question posed to Americans on Tuesday night by the ABC News program What Would You Do?

Against a backdrop of rising antigay violence across the country, the program brought its social-experiment format to that quintessentially heterosexual location -- a sports bar in New Jersey.

Two male actors, who are partners in real life, portrayed a gay couple in various scenarios, adjusting their interactions to gauge how bar patrons responded. Other actors were planted to influence the group dynamic.

"It just seems weird for the area," sniped one actor portraying a beer-swilling harasser, as the gay couple sat together, dressed in matching vests and sipping cosmos.

Overwhelmingly, the real patrons showed intolerance for snide remarks like his, even as the gay couple escalated their touching and affection.

"I would rather have 12 of you than four of him," said one man apologetically to the couple.

"Seriously, this is not your [expletive] bar!" yelled an emotional woman to one harasser, in defense of the gay couple.

Later, a real patron who did harass the couple seemed to retract his views after the hidden cameras were revealed. An expert interviewed by ABC News attributed his transformation to the surprising peer pressure to be tolerant.

"Tolerance has become an American value," she said. "People work hard to give others the impression that they believe similarly, even when they don't."

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Julie Bolcer