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Decade of the Gay Leader

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Annise Parker's election as mayor of Houston earlier this month was just the highest-profile of many successful campaigns run by openly gay elected candidates this year. According to the Victory Fund, the number of openly gay and lesbian people holding elected political office in the United States went up from 257 eight years ago to at least 445 today.

In a story in Monday's New York Times, some political scientists say that this statistic is a better barometer of societal attitudes toward gay people than are the high-profile votes over marriage equality.

"Gay marriage ballot measures are not the best measure," New York University's Patrick J. Egan told the Times. "They happen to be about the one issue the public is most uncomfortable with. In a sense, they don't give us a real good picture of the opinion trend over the last 30 years."

For instance, the Times reported, "the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago has been polling people since 1973 about whether homosexual behavior is morally wrong. In 1973, 73% of the people polled described it as always wrong and only 11% as "not wrong." By 2006, those saying homosexuality was "always wrong" dropped to 56%, and 32% said it was not always wrong."

Coming out -- whether in political life or everyday life -- is a big reason for this shift, researchers say.

Read the full Times story here.

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