Religious Americans Support Gay Marriage
Many religious conservatives continue to insist that the same-sex marriage debate pits religious Americans against non-religious Americans. That was largely true even as recently as 2003, when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize gay marriage. That year, there were no major religious groups among whom a majority supported allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. The highest levels of support among major religious groups came from white mainline Protestants, of whom 36 percent favored same-sex marriage, and Catholics, with 35 percent support. Nearly two-thirds of the religiously unaffiliated, by contrast, supported same-sex marriage.
Over the last decade, though, the debate has shifted from one between religious and non-religious Americans to one that primarily pits older, conservative Christians against moderate, progressive, or younger Christians, Jews, and the religiously unaffiliated.
This new terrain is not only lost on conservative religious leaders; opponents of same-sex marriage, more than other Americans, remain convinced that public opinion is on their side. In early 2014—more than a year after national polls began consistently finding majority support for same-sex marriage—Americans who opposed legalizing same-sex marriage were roughly three times more likely to say that most of the country opposed rather than supported same-sex marriage.
Because support for same-sex marriage is higher among religiously unaffiliated Americans, many wrongly believe that the movement of non-religious Americans are primarily responsible for the new battle lines. But in fact, the bulk of the shift in favor of same-sex marriage over the past decade has taken place among religious Americans. While more than three-quarters of religiously unaffiliated Americans favor same-sex marriage today, that number is up only 12 percentage points since 2003.