American support for LGBTQ rights at odds with state assaults

A new national survey has reassuring findings that Americans of almost all religions and no religion are growing ever more supportive of LGBTQ rights.

For instance, eight in 10 Americans (80 percent) in the Public Religion Research Institute survey support laws against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations and housing against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Even 62 percent of white evangelical Protestants, tied with Hispanic Protestants, favor such nondiscrimination laws. Jehovah’s Witnesses were at the bottom of the barrel, yet half support nondiscrimination protections. Interestingly, in states showing the lowest level of support for nondiscrimination (Alabama, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota), two-thirds of state citizens themselves are against such discrimination, showing that state legislatures are not keeping up with demographics. (Scroll to Figure 5 to see where your state falls on this issue.)

In what seems contradictory, given widespread disapproval of discrimination by places of public accommodation, Americans are slightly less supportive of LGBTQ rights when it comes to a business owner refusing to serve LGBTQ individuals. This is a hot-button issue — with a case, 303 Creative, involving such discrimination by a website designer awaiting a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. Nevertheless, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Americans oppose permitting businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ customers on religious grounds.Those most willing to discriminate are Mormons (only 46 percent oppose such discrimination) and white Protestants (only 37 percent support LGBTQ rights to service). The political parties are polarized over this question, with nearly nine-in-10 Democrats and about two-thirds of independents opposing religiously based refusals, but 57 percent of Republicans supporting them.

The 2015 Obergell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage is threatened by the current extremist-majority Supreme Court, making the survey’s findings on marriage equality very timely. On this subject as well, the institute similarly found that overall, 68 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage. In fact, support for same-sex marriage is steadily increasing in the United States, up from 58 percent in 2016 to 69 percent today.

Once again, white evangelical Protestants are the odd ones out, with only about a third (38 percent) supporting marriage equality. Even so, support is growing among their ranks. In 2014, only a quarter of Mormons supported same-sex marriage, but today half do. The survey found that Hispanic Protestants, white evangelical Protestants and Jehovah’s Witnesses show lowest support for marriage equality, with 43 percent, 38 percent and 19 percent respectively supporting it. Meanwhile, the religiously unaffiliated show the greatest acceptance, with nine in 10 in favor of marriage equality. Support for same-sex marriage from white mainline Protestants and white Catholics has risen from about two-thirds to three-fourths.

Of note, while 10 percent of Americans identify as LGBTQ (3 percent gay or lesbian, 4 percent bisexual and 2 percent as something other), they are twice as likely as the general population to identify as religiously unaffiliated. The institute identifies 26 percent of the general population as unaffiliated, but 50 percent of LGBTQ are in that category. About two-in-10 non-Christians (including Unitarian Universalists, religiously unaffiliated, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and other non-Christians) identify as LGBTQ.

LGBTQ Americans are twice as likely to belong to Generation Z, with almost half of them under age 30. Although whites make up the majority of the LGBTQ community, LGBTQ individuals are less likely to be white than the population at large. And LGBTQ Americans are six times as likely to identify as Democrats than as Republicans.

The Public Religion Research Institute found that attitudes toward structural racism correlate closely with attitudes toward LGBTQ rights. “Americans who strongly favor protections for LGBTQ people score lower on the Structural Racism Index,” it says.

Similarly, Christian nationalism adherents are about five times as likely as Christian nationalism rejecters to support allowing religiously based service refusals. Americans who agree that in truly Christian households women must submit to a man’s leadership are (no surprise) about twice as likely to favor allowing religiously based service refusals as those who disagree with this idea (49 percent vs. 25 percent).

“These findings are extremely eye-opening in combating those religiously motivated state legislators, governors and members of Congress who are eager to take us back to the bad old days of closets and rampant homophobia,” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “The religiously diverse American people have spoken — and huge majorities of us support LGBTQ rights.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with almost 40,000 members and several chapters across the country. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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