Is America heaven or hell for homosexuals? For this editorial writer the glass appears to be more than half empty. The commentors are all over the map.
Perhaps I can shed some light on this issue. I'm a native-born Californian who's lived in homosexuals' Mecca--the San Francisco Bay Area--for 40 years. I've also traveled widely, from Indonesia to the Netherlands and many parts of America.
To start working on an answer you have to realize the sheer scale of the nation we're talking about. The United States has 97% of the land mass of Continental Europe, and about the same population as Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Poland and Estonia combined.
The American South alone has a larger population than any but the biggest four EU countries.
This makes generalizations about America about as shaky as generalizations about the entire EU.
But you can be sure of some things.
1. It's possible to be murdered for being homosexual if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time, hanging out with the wrong people. This is especially true in areas with low education, low income, limited contact with people who are "different" in any way--especially in the deep South.
2. It's possible to live your entire live as a homosexual openly, without fear of discrimination or reprisal, in nearly every way, in nearly every college town and major metropolitan area in the country, outside the deep South (which I regard as a foreign country myself).
3. So a homosexual who's residentially mobile--and America certainly supports residential mobility--can live or move somewhere where it would be hard to find a more accepting environment on Earth. And these areas aren't tiny enclaves. Anywhere from Miami to Boston to Seattle to San Diego will work.
4. Acceptance of homosexuals has, overall, become the defacto norm in urban areas--less so in Black and Hispanic communities, which tend to be more culturally conservative. Hence the interesting phenomenon of American Anglican churches that reject having homosexual priests joining African Anglican organizations.
5. California--in many ways a leading indicator of social trends--has had several referenda on homosexual rights. The latest one, prohibiting homosexual marriage, passed by 53%. The preceding one, a decade or so earlier, passed by over 2/3 as I recall. This is in line with my own observations. It seems reasonable to conclude that another referendum in, say, five or ten years, will tip in favor of homosexuals. And even the current one explicitly upheld homosexual domestic partner rights, while denying them the marriage right per se.
6. Homosexual rights activists have in some ways been their own worst enemies. During the recent campaign in Calfornia there were widespread incidents of homosexual activists denying the right of free political expression to those who opposed homosexual marriage. Many thousands of lawn signs were stolen, cars with pro-Prop 8 bumper stickers vandalized, and Prop 8 proponents harassed and intimidated in significant numbers.
Today we're having a Gay Pride Parade in San Francisco. Most likely, as in past years, participants will succeed in replicating every conservative's worst nightmare of Sodom and Gomorroh, engaging in PDAs (Public Displays of Affection) that are considered unacceptable among heterosexuals in public by society at large, up to and including oral copulation. These parades provide fodder for conservative campaigns and figured prominently in Prop 8 marketing. I was listening to a liberal radio station talk show this morning that had a number of homosexuals calling in to state how much they thought these parades harmed their cause. They are truly the gifts that keep on giving for conservative anti-homosexual activists, along with the documented vandalism and harassment I cited.
So is the glass half full or half empty? Let me put it this way: if I were homosexual, living somewhere on the planet, I'd certainly consider moving to America. Probably not to a small town in Mississippi! But compared to most other nations (remember Ahmadinejad saying "We have no homosexuals" ?) this is a great place to be homosexual.
Homosexuals have yet to be formally accepted in the military. Some states deny them all domestic partner rights, while others confer all rights to them, while most are somewhere in between. If a homosexual couple moved into my neighborhood their homosexuality would be irrelevant to their neighbors--the concerns would be more like do their keep their lawn moved and not have parties that keep up neighbors who have to go to work the next day. In other words, exactly the same concerns people would have with heterosexual neighbors. And if they had children, their kids would be free to play with other families' children and vice versa. When they applied for a job the concerns would be can they do the job. Period. And I speak from personal experience.
I hope this gives folks in the UK a balanced perspective on this issue.