Attitudes and beliefs about homosexuality and same-sex marriage among a sample of South African students
Kelvin Mwaba, PhD (University of the Western Cape, South Africa), 2008, 37(6), 801–804

It seems that 2015 will be a highly significant year in the process of breaking down barriers to same-sex marriage. By midyear, it is predicted that same-sex-marriage rights will be the law of the land for all states in the USA. Polls show that the majority of Americans are willing, and even eager, to see the US Supreme Court to take this step.

The first country to extend marriage laws to include same-sex couples was the Netherlands. This came into effect on the 1 April 2001. Now, as of 1 January 2015, 17 countries (Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Uruguay) allow same-sex couples to marry.

South Africa was the first country in Africa, and the second outside of Europe, to legalize same-sex marriage. Their National Assembly passed the Civil Unions Bill on 14 November 2006, by a 230 votes to 41. It became law on 30 November 2006.

In 2006 when the Bill was being discussed throughout the country, and then finally passed, Dr Mwaba administered an 18-item questionnaire to assess attitudes and beliefs regarding same-sex marriage and homosexuality. Participants in the study were 150 undergraduate students attending a predominantly black university in the Western Cape province of South Africa. All were enrolled in an introductory psychology course and volunteered to serve as participants. Statements about same-sex marriage and homosexuality were based on literature about homosexual beliefs and attitudes. Participants were required to indicate agreement or disagreement with each statement.

Results showed that 71% viewed same-sex marriage as strange and supported religious groups opposed to such marriages. Close to 40% supported discrimination against homosexuals with 46% indicating that they should be denied the right to adopt children.

It would be interesting to repeat the study, after almost a decade has passed. Researchers have often shown that changes in social attitudes often follow legislation. Thus when a non-discriminatory regime is in place through a change in the law of the land, people become less discriminatory as time goes by.

This journal is headquartered in New Zealand. On 17 April, 2013, a Bill allowing same-sex marriage was passed in the New Zealand Parliament. Many dire predictions were made by religious and other groups to try to deter Parliamentarians, but the Bill was passed by 77 votes to 44. Famously, a New Zealand parliamentarian, Maurice Williamson (now New Zealand’s Foreign Minister), said in the Parliament after the vote, amid rejoicing, that contrary to all the portents of doom, there was “ a great big gay rainbow” in his Electorate on the day of the vote!

Robert A.C. (Bob) Stewart, PhD | Editor-in-Chief   
Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal