Same-sex marriage legalization associated with reduced implicit and explicit anti-gay bias

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Description: The current research tested whether the passing of government legislation, signaling the prevailing attitudes of the local majority, was associated with changes in citizens’ attitudes. Specifically, with ~1 million responses over a 11-year window, we test whether state-by-state same-sex marriage legislation was associated with decreases in anti-gay implicit and explicit bias. Results across five operationalizations consistently provide support for this possibility. Both implicit and explicit bias were decreasing prior to same-sex marriage legalization, but decreased at a sharper rate following legalization. Moderating this effect was whether states passed legislation locally. While states passing state-level legislation experienced a greater decrease in bias following legislation, states that never passed local legislation demonstrated increased anti-gay bias following federal legalization. Our work highlights how government legislation can inform individuals’ attitudes, even when these attitudes may be deeply entrenched, and socially and politically volatile.

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