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A surprising number of Americans want homosexuality to be illegal

Sarah Rice / Getty Images News

For all the recent progress made toward LGBT rights, there's at least one sign that the US still has a long way to go before it's fully accepting of gays and lesbians: A lot of Americans still believe homosexuality should be illegal or otherwise discouraged by society.

The Pew Research Center, in its new report on American politics, found 43 percent of Republicans and 22 percent of Democrats still say homosexuality should be discouraged by society.

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Pew's finding is consistent with what other organizations have discovered when looking into the issue. Gallup, for instance, found that 30 percent of Americans say homosexual relations between consenting adults should be flatly illegal.

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Gallup's findings are, if anything, starker than Pew's. With Pew's numbers, it's possible people support LGBT rights but still think society should discourage homosexuality. With Gallup's numbers, there's no such nuance: nearly one in three Americans don't think homosexual relations should be legal in the first place.

But the overwhelming trend in both surveys is towards LGBT acceptance — and that's true across both parties. In fact, LGBT rights are almost the only issue where the two parties are moving in the same direction.

"For nine of the 10 items in the ideological consistency scale, the partisan gap has grown wider over the last 20 years," the Pew report found. "The sole exception is in views of homosexuality: Both Democrats and Republicans have become more liberal on this question over the years, as fewer now say that 'homosexuality should be discouraged (rather than accepted) by society.' However, the current 21-point partisan gap on this question is only slightly wider than the 16 point gap in 1994."

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