Mormons Really, Really Support Gay Rights—They Just Don’t Want Us To Get Married

A new study on religious views toward the LGBT community points to a massive generation gap.

Mormons largely support laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination. But they’re still opposed to same-sex marriage, according to a new report from the Public Religion Research Institute, making them an anomaly among religious groups in America.

Only 40% of Mormons support marriage equality, compared to the nearly 70% who believe LGBT Americans should be protected from discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations. That’s a larger divide than seen in any other faith.

White evangelicals are also split—though only 54% of them favor anti-discrimination laws, so the distance to the 34% who favor marriage equality is smaller. Jews were the most supportive on both fronts: 77% back same-sex marriage while a full 80% agree there should be non-discrimination laws protecting sexual orientation and gender identity. The group most opposed to marriage equality is Jehovah’s Witnesses: Only 13% back same-sex marriage.

Justin Sullivan

A majority of American Muslims (51%) also support same-sex marriage, compared to 2014, when 51% were opposed.

Opposition to same-sex marriage among Mormons is declining, though, from 68% in 2013 to 53% in 2017. That shift plays out generationally, as well, with 52% of Mormons ages 18 to 29 supporting gay marriage, compared to just 32% of those 65 and older.

“At a time when Americans are more divided than ever, the sea change in support for LGBT rights that now crosses lines of race, ethnicity, religion and geography means that LGBT rights are becoming one of the few areas of public agreement,” said PRRI research director Dan Cox in a statement.

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But the situation gets murkier in the marketplace: More than half (53%) of Mormons and white evangelicals say small-business owners should be allowed to turn away LGBT customers on religious grounds. A lawsuit currently before the Supreme Court addresses the question of whether or not a Colorado baker can refuse to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple because it goes against his Christian beliefs.

Other takeaways from the report:

* 59% of young Republicans support same-sex marriage, compared to 28% of Republicans 65 and older.
* Nearly 80% of all Americans between 18 and 29 favor anti-discrimination laws, compared to 61% of seniors.
* Though the Vatican strongly opposes same-sex marriage, 66% of Catholics are in favor of marriage equality.

The study was based on interviews with some 40,000 Americans in all 50 states conducted last year.

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.
@ItsDanAvery