Psychology of Discrimination
While the public only knows one form of discrimination and racism, psychologists have long been aware of a second and even more dangerous form of prejudice: averse (or ambivalent) discrimination. Gaertner and Dovidio did the most famous study on averse racism and the findings were presented in the book Prejudice, Discrimination and Racism.
People who display averse discrimination are not the kind of people we generally view as prejudiced. They value equality and their prejudice is hidden almost all the time, only appearing when there is a non-prejudiced explanation for their actions or when social norms allow for it. That is, they will act in a discriminatory manner when around others who are acting the same way, or when they can blame their discrimination on other factors. Dovidio and Gaertner performed numerous experiments which showed that a large part of the population displayed racist (their experiments focused on African-Americans) tendencies under these circumstances.
Marilyn Brewer of UC Santa Barbara authored another study which is critical in this situation, In-Group Bias in the Minimal Intergroup Situation. Brewer found the tendency amongst prejudiced people was not towards out-group bias, but rather in-group favouritism. In other words, bigots do not try to take away rights from subordinate groups, but rather seek to give themselves privileges that the subgroups don’t enjoy.
Opponents of gay marriage have reasons to justify their beliefs and they have supporters across the nation. They can even claim that they’re offering gays the exact same rights as they have, just with a different name. They can say whatever they want, as far as psychologists are concerned they’re prejudiced bigots.