Üliõpilaste hoiakud samasooliste paaride suhtes ja selleteemalise meediaarutelu retseptsioon
Keywords: same-sex couples, civil partnership, same-sex marriage, same-sex adoption, attitudes, reception, encoding/decoding. The aim of this bachelor’s thesis “Students’ Attitudes towards Same-sex Couples and the Reception of the Thematic Discussion in Media” was to find out which attitudes Estonian students have towards same-sex couples as well as how the students with different opinions argue their attitudes and how they feel about opposing arguments. In order to do that, quantitative and qualitative methods were used. At first, 174 Estonian students aged 19–26 were questioned in an online survey to map their attitudes towards same-sex couples. After that, 10 of the respondents were asked to argue their positive or negative attitudes during semi-structured interviews. Furthermore, to analyse how they feel about opposing arguments, the interviewees were requested to read two opinion articles about whether same-sex partnership and marriage should be legalised in Estonia or not. In order to study the reception of the texts, the interviewees were asked several questions after they had read through the articles. The quantitative study indicated that most of the students questioned had positive attitudes towards same-sex couples – 80% of the respondents would allow gay and lesbian couples to register their partnership and approximately 60% would allow them to marry. However, the respondents had more conservative attitudes towards adoption issues – less than 40% would allow same-sex couples to adopt and raise children. When reasoning their attitudes towards same-sex couples, the interviewees’ argumentation was mostly consistent and thorough. The main argument mentioned in favour of same-sex couples’ rights was that people in a democratic country should be treated equally and should not be discriminated on the basis of their sexual orientation. The most popular argument against same-sex couples’ rights was the need to protect traditional values, and the personal belief of what is acceptable and what is not. Therefore, the results demonstrate that the interviewees with positive attitudes towards same-sex couples reason their attitudes relying mostly on universal principles, whereas the interviewees with negative attitudes tend to be more emotional and their arguments are often based on personal experiences and beliefs. In order to analyse how the interviewees feel about opposing arguments, Stuart Hall’s encoding/decoding model was used. In the case of each interviewee it was analysed whether an interviewee decoded media texts in a hegemonic, negotiated or oppositional way. As predicted, most of the interviewees were critical and sceptical towards opposing arguments. Many of them pointed out that they would like to read an article which discusses both sides – positive and negative aspects of the topic – instead of an article which discusses only one side of the problem. Nevertheless, the majority of the students surveyed are tolerant and open-minded regarding the issue of same-sex couples’ rights to register their partnership or get married. There are several reasons why the students believe that same-sex partnership and marriage should be legalised; for example, “the couple lives together anyway” or “legalising gay partnership or marriage does not harm anyone” or “no one should be discriminated”. However, regardless of the explanations, it is clear that many respondents find it necessary to accept same-sex couples and their needs. Although Estonians are considered to be rather conservative and even intolerant towards sexual minorities and same-sex couples, the conducted survey indicates that the younger generation (i.e. today’s students) is fairly open-minded and willing to accept the differences. As the majority (80%) of the respondents would allow same-sex couples to register their partnership, it is likely that the public at large would also accept it. Therefore, allowing civil partnerships may be the compromise between LGBT people and public opinion which satisfies both sides. However, allowing same-sex couples to adopt children is a much more problematic issue – if even many open-minded students were sceptical about it, the people with more conservative attitudes would probably be even more sceptical. On the other hand, it is a fact that the families in which homosexual parents are raising children already exist in Estonia. Should they be ignored by the law just because public opinion does not approve them?