It is often assumed, quite incorrectly, that the disputes over marriage equality are between those standing up for religious belief (especially Christian belief), and secularists on the side of human rights. The fallacy of this assumption is neatly illustrated by the graphic below, in a post at the Public Religion Research Institute, drawing on a comprehensive analysis of data from the Pew Research Institute. This clearly shows that the disagreement is not between religion and human rights, but between the different shades of religious affiliation. Two of the three groups with the strongest support for equality are from religious groups – but not Christian religion (Jews, and other non-Christian faith groups).
Even within the Christian faith, there is clear division between denominations. White and Hispanic Catholics, and White Mainline Protestants, all show clear majority support for equality. (The research does not break out Black Catholics):
- White Catholics: 56% in favour, 39% opposed
- Hispanic Catholics: 53% in favour, 37% opposed
- White Mainline Protestants: 52% in favour, 40% opposed
The arguments from “religious freedom” against legal recognition for all marriages must surely also take into account the freedom of those people of faith that support same – sex marriage, both in other faith groups, and within their own denominations. (In
Of the groups broken out for analysis, only Black Protestants, Mormons and Evangelicals are opposed – but, it must be said, very strongly.
In 2011, majorities of most religious groups favored allowing gay and lesbian couple to marry legally, illustrating that the old narrative of battle lines between secular supporters and religious opponents no longer serves as an accurate characterization of the landscape of the same-sex marriage debate. In the general population, 2011 was also the first year on record in which supporting same-sex marriage was not a minority position. In May, several surveys (all asking slightly different versions of the same question) found that a majority of the public supported allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry. PRRI’s May survey found that 51% of Americans were in favor, and 43% were opposed.
-full analysis at Public Religion Research Institute.
This strength of feeling from the opponents, and the rather milder feelings of supporters, must be assessed together with the evidence from several sources that opposition is dropping in degree, as well as in extent, while supporters are growing in both numbers and intensity of feeling.
The striking contrast between the views of younger people, including younger Evangelicals, and their older co-religionists shows clearly that this shift within the churches towards more widespread, and more intense, support for marriage equality will surely continue to grow:
There are large generational differences between Millennials (age 18-29) and older Americans on the issue of same-sex marriage. Sixty-four percent of Millennials favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, a rate that is more than 20 points higher than among those ages 30 and above (42%). This generational gap persists within every religious group, including more conservative religious groups. For example, 66% of Catholic Millennials favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, 15 points higher than Catholics ages 30 and above (51%). Even among white evangelical Protestants—the group most opposed to same-sex marriage—nearly 4-in-10 (39%) white evangelical Protestant Millennials favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, a rate that is more than 20 points higher than that of white evangelicals ages 30 and older (18%).
– Public Religion Research Institute.