Academic journal article
By Stulhofer, Aleksander; Rimac, Ivan
The Journal of Sex Research , Vol. 46, No. 1
The European Parliament recently passed a resolution condemning homophobia in the European Union (European Parliament, 2006). The move was prompted, among other reasons, by a considerable difference in the treatment of homosexuality in the "old" and "new" Europe (European Commission, 2006, p. 42-43). After the accession round on May 1, 2004, when 10 postcommunist countries became the new members of the European Union, new cultural divisions became a part of European reality. Clashes between the EU parliamentarians on the issues of abortion and human stem cell research (Bilefski, 2006; Bowley, 2005) and violent attacks on gay pride participants in Eastern and Southeastern Europe (Anonymous, 2001, 2007a; Levy, 2007) suggested a possibility of a European version of "culture wars." In several Central and Eastern European countries, Poland and Romania being the most notable, but certainly not the sole examples (Anonymous, 2007b; Connolly, 2007; Sheeter, 2006; Turcescu &Stan, 2005), there is a strong political and sociocultural opposition to gay and lesbian rights. In this oppositional bloc one invariably finds the prominent members of the national church and various, often Europhobic, right-wing political groups.
Opposite tendencies, however, should not be overlooked. Recently, in the two former "Eastern-bloc" countries, Slovenia (2005) and the Czech Republic (2006), a law on registered same-sex partnership was passed, while Hungary and Croatia adopted unregistered same-sex cohabitation (in 1996 and 2003, respectively). In the Romanian case, the negotiation process leading to EU accession provided strong pressure on local legislators, resulting in the recent decriminalization of homosexuality in this country (Nachescu, 2005). Still, cross-national surveys suggest that negative attitudes toward homosexuality are more prevalent in the "new" Europe (Inglehart & Welzel, 2005; Stulhofer & Sandfort, 2005). As recently reported, only one non-Western European country, the Czech Republic, was among the 10 European countries that were most accepting of homosexuality, and it occupied the last place on the list (Halman, Luijkx, & Van Zundert, 2005). In contrast, all 10 least-accepting countries were non-Western European countries. Opposition to gay and lesbian rights was found substantially more present in the Eastern, Southeastern, and to a somewhat lesser extent Central European societies than in the Western ones (European Commission, 2006). While, for example, an overwhelming majority of Dutch citizens (82%) supported homosexual marriage, comparable majorities of participants in Latvia, Greece, and Poland objected to the idea.
Although numerous studies have analyzed sociopsychological correlates or microdeterminants of homophobia, mostly in Western countries (Adam, 1998; Davies, 2004; Herek, 1998; Steffans & Wagner, 2004), we are aware of only two cross-national studies that focused on macro-level correlates of homonegativity (Kelley, 2001; Widmer, Treas, & Newcomb, 1998). According to the authors of the first study, attitudes toward nonmarital sex measured by the International Social Survey Program in 1994 could not be explained by a simple permissive/nonpermissive society dichotomy. Their data on disapproval of homosexual sex, however, showed that on average the public in the old EU15 countries (1) was substantially less homonegative than the public in the new members of the EU. The average proportion of participants believing that same-sex activity between two adults is '"always wrong" was 54% in the first group of countries (n=10) and 68% in the second group (n=5). The average for the whole set of 24 countries was 59%. Among the non-Western European countries, the Czech Republic was found the most, and Hungary the least, permissive (Widmer et al., 1998). The study did not analyze predictors of disapproval of homosexuality.
A more recent research study (Kelley, 2001) reported on predictors of disapproval of homosexuality in a pooled sample of 29 countries participating in the International Social Survey Project 1998-1999. …