Religious landscape shifts as support for same-sex marriage rises

Feb. 26, 2014 at 9:06 AM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Americans' support for same-sex marriage rose from 32 percent in 2003 to 53 percent in 2013, suggesting a shift in the religious landscape, a survey indicates.

The survey conducted by the non-partisan Public Religion Research Institute found that while most religious groups opposed same-sex marriage in 2003, religious groups now were on both sides of the issue, results released Wednesday indicated.

While 73 percent of religiously unaffiliated Americans said they favored allowing same-sex couples to marry, 83 percent of Jewish respondents said they favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry. Majorities of other mainstream religions also supported same-sex marriage -- including white mainline protestants, 62 percent; white Catholics, 58 percent; and Hispanic Catholics, 56 percent.

Hispanic Protestants were divided, with 46 percent favoring allowing same-sex couples to marry and 49 percent opposed. Fifty-nine percent of black Protestants and 69 percent of white evangelical Protestants oppose same-sex marriage.

Fifty-eight percent of respondents, including 70 percent of millennials (those ages 18 to 33) said religious groups were alienating young people by being too judgmental on gay and lesbian issues.

"While many churches and people in the pews have been moving away from their opposition to LGBT rights over the last decade, this new research provides further evidence that negative teachings on this issue have hurt churches' ability to attract and retain young people," said Robert P. Jones, Public Religion Research Institute chief executive officer. "Nearly one-third of millennials who left their childhood religion say unfavorable church teachings about or treatment of gay and lesbian people played a significant role in their decision to head for the exit."

Results are based on a nationwide phone survey of 4,509 adults conducted from Nov. 12 to Dec.18. The margin of error is 1.7 percentage points.

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