STUDY: Religious Americans Support Marriage Equality, Oppose Religious Freedom Laws

The breakdown by religions yields some surprising results.

A new study indicates religious Americans support same-sex marriage and oppose allowing business owners to discriminate against gay couples based on their religious beliefs.

The study, conducted by PRRI was culled from more than 40,000 interviews conducted throughout 2016. It found that, overall, 58% of Americans support the freedom to marry.

Among religious groups, the most supportive were Unitarian/Universalists (94%), Buddhists (85%), Jews (73%) and Hindus (67%). A majority of white mainline Protestants and Catholics supported marriage equality (both 63%), with Hispanic Catholics nearly the same (62%).


Only 44% of Muslims supported marriage equality, but that’s just one percentage point lower than the rate for black Protestants. (44% of Muslims oppose same-sex marriage, compared to 45% of black Protestants.)

Just three denominations in the survey presented a majority opposition to same-sex marriage: Mormons (37% favor, 55% oppose), white evangelical Protestants (31% favor, 61% oppose) and Jehovah’s Witnesses (25% favor, 53% oppose).

Combined, these groups comprise 19% of the U.S. population.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 21: Muslim men pray after a speach by the Islamic Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community Mirza Masroor Ahmad at Baitul Futuh Mosque in Morden on September 21, 2012 in London, England. More than 5,000 Muslim men and women congregated at the largest mosque in Europe, to listen to the Islamic Khalifa's sermon. A new wave of protests against an anti-Islamic film made in the US denigrating the Prophet Mohammed, have began across the Muslim world today.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

When it comes to allowing religiously based discrimination against LGBT Americans, six in ten Americans (61%) oppose it. That includes members of religious groups who are divided on the issue of marriage equality—like Muslims (60% of whom oppose religious freedom laws), black Protestants (66%) and Mormons (52%)—all of whom have been subject to institutionalized discrimination at some point.

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The only group split on the issue are White evangelical Protestants, a full 50% of whom believe small businesses should be allowed to deny goods and services to LGBT customers, compared to 42% who oppose it.

Maybe they just have to experience what it’s like to be treated like a second-class citizen?

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.