Post image for Distinguished Faculty Research Lecture, 2016

Distinguished Faculty Research Lecture, 2016

January 6, 2016

It has been nearly a year since the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act put Indiana in the national spotlight and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in its landmark case on same-sex marriage.

The reactions to RFRA and the Supreme Court ruling reflect a turnaround in American public opinion that is “one of the most striking changes in public opinion social scientists have ever witnessed,” said Brian Powell, the James H. Rudy Professor of sociology and chair of the Department of Sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington.

This striking change, and the future directions of public opinion, are the topics of the 2016 Distinguished Faculty Research Lecture, “Public Opinion after Obergefell: What Americans Believe about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Marriage Equality, and Same-Sex Parenting.”

Powell will present the lecture on Monday, April 18. The lecture will take place from 3 to 4:30 p.m. in the Indiana University Cinema, 1213 E. Seventh St.

“Despite the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States, many questions remain about Americans’ views and beliefs,” Powell said. “Do Americans count same-sex couples as a ‘family’? What do Americans believe about same-sex parenting? Do Americans believe businesses should have the right to refuse services to same-sex couples? Is the unprecedented change in American views on same-sex marriage a sign of how public opinion on other social issues will change in the future? I plan to answer these and other questions during the lecture.”

A member of the IU Bloomington faculty since 1986, Powell conducts research focused on family, education, gender and sexuality. He has studied how families confer advantages — or disadvantages — to their children and how family structure influences parental investments in children. He is especially interested in atypical family forms: families with older parents, bi/multiracial families, adoptive families and gay/lesbian families.

Powell’s award-winning book, “Counted Out: Same-Sex Relations and Americans’ Definitions of Family” — coauthored with IU Ph.D.s Catherine Bolzendahl and Claudia Geist and with Lala Carr Steelman from the University of South Carolina — documents the transformation in how Americans define family and their views regarding same-sex families. His current research explores Americans’ views regarding the role of parents, children and the government in college funding.

The Distinguished Faculty Research Lecture series is co-sponsored by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research and the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President at IU Bloomington. Begun in 1980, this annual event recognizes the research achievements of an IU Bloomington faculty member and is accompanied by a $5,000 award to support the distinguished lecturer’s continuing research. Past awardees include Elinor Ostrom, David R. Williams, Rebecca Barthelmie and Richard DiMarchi.