According to a new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute,religiously affiliated people strongly support same-sex marriage differs greatly from public perception. While those who classify themselves as religiously unaffiliated have the highest number of supporters (79 percent), white mainline Protestants are not far behind: 60 percent said they support same-sex marriage. Catholics follow closely, with 58 percent in favor.
The percentages remain high when asked about support for nondiscrimination laws. More than half of all religious denominations surveyed favor these laws. Non-white Protestants bring in the low end, which is still at 59 percent. White evangelical Protestants see a slight uptick at 60 percent. The number jumps to 67 percent for white mainline Protestants, and Catholics show the most support of religiously affiliated groups surveyed at 71 percent. Those unaffiliated had the highest percentage, though, at an impressive 81 percent.
Surprisingly, many religious groups also do not support the “religious freedom” laws that serve to allow business owners to discriminate against LGBTs:
While majorities of most religious groups oppose these so-called “religious freedom” laws, white evangelical Protestants (51%) are the only religious group with majority support. Forty-two percent of white evangelical Protestants oppose allowing small businesses to refuse products or services to gay and lesbian people on religious grounds. By contrast, 59% of white mainline Protestants, 63% of non-white Protestants, and 64% of Catholics oppose allowing small business owners to refuse service to gay and lesbian people on religious grounds, as do nearly three-quarters (73%) of religiously unaffiliated Americans.
Even among the white evangelical Protestants, their “majority support” is just above half which could eventually teeter to the opposite side. As PRRI’s CEO Robert Jones pointed out in a press release, the majority of the evangelicals remain in the minority position: “As national opinion has shifted toward support for LGBT rights, including among religious Americans, white evangelical Protestants are increasingly becoming an island of opposition amidst a sea of acceptance.”
For the groups who still remain on the low end, the difference in opinion on whether or not LGBT discrimination exists sheds some light on these numbers. White evangelical Protestants and non-white Protestants were the only groups where the majority did not support same-sex marriage, with 62 percent and 54 percent, respectively, saying they were against it. And although the majority of both groups support anti-discrimination laws, they were at the very bottom of the spectrum.
This correlates with the percentage of those who believe discrimination against gay and lesbian and transgender people is a problem in the U.S. When asked if they believe there is “a lot of discrimination against gay, lesbian, and transgender people,” only 44 percent of white evangelical Protestants answered yes for gay and lesbian people, while slightly more 49 percent said yes as far as transgender people. Similarly, just 54 and 53 percent of non-white Protestants answered yes for gay and lesbian people and transgender people, respectively.
Meanwhile, all of the other groups were far more likely to say they do believe gay lesbian people are discriminated against 59 percent for white mainline Protestants, and 70 percent for Catholics. The pattern remains the same for transgender discrimination: 60 percent of white mainline Protestants and 68 percent of Catholics said yes, there is discrimination against transgender people.
What this survey reveals is that even for the groups who showed less support, the numbers are still higher than ever before. And when these groups are made more aware of the fact that discrimination is undeniably present, it is possible that these numbers will continue to shift towards support for equal rights.