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Most Americans Oppose Restricting Rights for LGBT People
Topics: LGBT

Religiously Based Refusals to Serve LGBT People

Wedding Vendors

A majority (53%) of Americans oppose allowing businesses that provide wedding services, such as catering, flowers, and wedding cakes, to refuse services to same-sex couples, compared to about four in ten (41%) who say they would support allowing these wedding-based businesses to refuse services to same-sex couples for religious reasons.

Opinion is fractured along racial and ethnic lines. More than six in ten black (61%) and Hispanic Americans (68%) say wedding-based businesses should be required to provide services to same-sex couples. White Americans are divided: 48% agree that businesses ought to be required to serve same-sex couples, while 47% say they should not. Notably, there are no major differences among white Americans by education.

Two-thirds (67%) of Republicans believe wedding-based businesses, like those making wedding cakes, should be able to refuse serving same-sex couples if doing so would violate the owner’s religious beliefs. By contrast, only 40% of independents and about one in four (24%) Democrats hold this view. More than seven in ten (72%) Democrats and a majority (55%) of independents say wedding-based businesses should be required to provide the same services to same-sex couples as they would to all other customers.

White Protestants are unique to the extent they believe wedding-based businesses should be allowed to refuse serving same-sex couples. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of white evangelical Protestants and nearly half (49%) of white mainline Protestants believe businesses that provide wedding services should be allowed to refuse services to same-sex couples. A majority of white Catholics (55%), black Protestants (56%), members of non-Christian religious groups (64%), unaffiliated Americans (65%), and Hispanic Catholics (73%) believe that such businesses should have to serve same-sex couples.

On this issue, young people are solidly opposed while older Americans are divided. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of young people (age 18-29) say wedding-based businesses should not be allowed to refuse services to same-sex couples on religious grounds. Americans age 65 and older are divided: Roughly as many support (45%) as oppose (50%) allowing wedding-based businesses to refuse services to same-sex couples.

There is a sizable gender gap. Six in ten (60%) women believe they should not be permitted to refuse services, while men are divided: 48% support, 47% oppose.

Small Businesses

When asked about the issue of religiously based service refusals more generally outside of the wedding context, attitudes are similar. A majority (56%) of Americans oppose allowing small business owners in their state to refuse services or goods to gay and lesbian people if doing so violates their religious beliefs, while nearly four in ten (39%) favor religiously based service refusals to gay and lesbian people. Support for such service refusals has increased since earlier this year. In February 2017, two-thirds (64%) opposed allowing small businesses to refuse goods or services to gay and lesbian people, compared to fewer than one-third (32%) who supported such actions.1

Notably, more than six in ten of black (63%) and Hispanic (63%) Americans are opposed to allowing small business owners in their state to refuse goods and services to gay and lesbian people on religious grounds. More than half (52%) of white Americans are also opposed to allowing small businesses the right to refuse serving gay and lesbian people. There are no major differences in the views of white Americans by educational background.

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Democrats and a majority (54%) of independents oppose allowing small business owners to refuse services to gay and lesbian people. Among Republicans, however, fewer than four in ten (38%) oppose this policy, compared to a majority (57%) who favor it.

White evangelical Protestants are the only major religious group in which a majority supports religiously based service refusals to gay and lesbian people. Six in ten (60%) white evangelical Protestants believe small businesses should be permitted to refuse products or services to gay and lesbian people if doing so would be a violation of their religious beliefs. Fewer than half of white mainline Protestants (44%), black Protestants (41%), white Catholics (36%), religiously unaffiliated Americans (31%), and members of non-Christian religions (30%) agree.

LGBT Non-discrimination Laws

There is continued strong support gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people non-discrimination laws. More than seven in ten (72%) Americans favor laws that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people from discrimination in jobs, public accommodation, and housing. Roughly one-quarter (24%) of the public oppose such laws. Views have been relatively stable over the past year. In August 2016, an identical number (72%) of Americans expressed support non-discrimination laws to protect LGBT people.2

There is robust support for nondiscrimination protections across the political spectrum. Six in ten (60%) Republicans, about seven in ten (72%) independents, and approximately eight in ten (81%) Democrats favor laws to protect LGBT people from discrimination in employment, public accommodations, and housing.

Transgender Issues

Transgender People Serving in the Military

Americans strongly support allowing transgender people to serve in the U.S. military. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of the public favor allowing transgender people to serve, while 30% oppose.

Democrats are more than twice as likely as Republicans (83% vs. 37%, respectively) to say that transgender people ought to be allowed to serve in the armed forces. A majority (57%) of Republicans say they should not be allowed to serve in the military. Two-thirds (67%) of independents favor allowing transgender people to serve.

The Use of Bathrooms by Transgender People

The public remains somewhat divided over whether transgender people should be required to use bathrooms that align with their sex at birth or whether they should be allowed to use facilities that match their current gender identity. Half (50%) of the public opposes laws that would require transgender people to use bathrooms that match their birth sex rather than their current gender identity. Less than four in ten (38%) favor such policies. Notably, more than one in ten (12%) report having no opinion on this issue. Views have remained relatively stable over the past year. In August 2016, a majority (53%) of the public opposed laws that would require transgender people to use bathrooms corresponding to their sex at birth, while 35% favored such a law.

The partisan gap in views on this issue are large, but smaller than those seen on other issues. Roughly half (51%) of Republicans believe transgender people should be required to use bathrooms that match their birth sex, while four in ten (40%) disagree. Six in ten (60%) Democrats oppose laws that would require transgender people to use bathrooms that match their sex at birth. Independents closely resemble the public overall. Importantly, there are sizable number of both Republicans (10%) and Democrats (10%) who say they don’t know or refuse to offer an opinion on this issue.

Notably, there is little difference in the views of men and women. Men are slightly more likely than women to favor a policy that would require transgender people to use bathrooms corresponding to their sex at birth (41% vs. 36%, respectively). Nearly half of men (47%) and a majority (53%) of women oppose this policy, while more than one in ten of both men and women (11% and 12%, respectively) offer no opinion.

Same-sex Marriage

Support for same-sex marriage continues to rise among the general public. Nearly two-thirds (66%) of Americans favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, while fewer than one-third (28%) oppose.

Despite increasing support for same-sex marriage, partisan divisions remain. More than seven in ten Democrats (76%) and independents (71%) favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally. Republicans are nearly evenly divided on this issue (47% favor, 48% oppose). Notably, 29% of Republicans strongly oppose same-sex marriage, compared to 21% who strongly support it.

No group has remained more steadfast in their opposition to same-sex marriage than white evangelical Protestants. A majority (54%) of white evangelical Protestants oppose same-sex marriage, although a significant minority (43%) now expresses support for the policy. Black Protestants are divided over whether gay and lesbian couple should be allowed to marry: 45% favor while 48% oppose it. Majorities of other major religious groups support same-sex marriage including Catholics (65%), white mainline Protestants (76%), members of non-Christian religious groups (79%), and the religiously unaffiliated (81%).

Among adults age 18 to 29, support for same-sex marriage has reached near consensus. More than eight in ten (81%) young adults express support for same-sex marriage, including a majority (56%) who support it strongly. A majority (55%) of seniors also support same-sex marriage, although they are more tepid in their support—fewer than one-quarter (24%) back the policy strongly.

Service Refusals by Religiously Affiliated Adoption Agencies

Religiously Affiliated Adoption Agencies that Receive Federal Funding

Few Americans say religiously affiliated adoption agencies that receive federal funding should be allowed to refuse placing children with qualified gay and lesbian couples. More than two-thirds (68%) of the public oppose allowing agencies that receive federal funding to refuse placing children with gay or lesbian people, compared to 28% of Americans who favor such a policy.

There is agreement across the political spectrum, although the extent of the agreement varies considerably. A majority (53%) of Republicans, two-thirds (67%) of independents, and more than eight in ten (81%) Democrats oppose allowing religiously affiliated adoption agencies that receive federal funding to refuse to place children with gay and lesbian couples. More than four in ten (43%) Republicans believe agencies that receive federal funds should be allowed to refuse to place children with gay and lesbian couples.

Majorities of all major religious groups oppose allowing agencies that receive federal support from excluding gay and lesbian couples from being considered as parents. Eight in ten (80%) religiously unaffiliated Americans, at least two-thirds of those affiliated with non-Christian religious traditions (73%), Catholics (69%), white mainline Protestants (68%), and black Protestants (67%) oppose allowing federally funded agencies to exclude qualified gay and lesbian couples from consideration. White evangelical Protestants are more divided, but a slim majority (51%) also say religiously affiliated agencies that receive federal funding should not be allowed to refuse to place children with gay and lesbian couples, compared to 45% who say that these agencies should be able to exclude gay and lesbian couples from consideration.

Religiously Affiliated Adoption Agencies that Receive No Federal Funding

The public is more divided over the discretion that should be granted to religiously affiliated agencies that do not receive federal funding. More than four in ten (44%) Americans say such agencies should be permitted to exclude gay and lesbian couples, while more than half (51%) say they should not. Views vary significantly by political and religious affiliation.

Republicans (61%) are more than twice as likely as Democrats (30%) to say it should be permissible for religiously affiliated agencies that do not receive federal funds to refuse placing children with gay and lesbian couples. Independents are divided: 47% say agencies should be allowed to do this while 48% say they should not.

White Christian groups express the most comfort with allowing religiously affiliated adoption agencies that do not receive federal support to refuse placing children with gay and lesbian couples. More than six in ten (63%) white evangelical Protestants and about half of white Catholics (50%) and white mainline Protestants (47%) say agencies that are not federally funded should be able to exclude gay and lesbian couples from placements. A majority of non-Christian adherents (54%), black Protestants (57%), unaffiliated Americans (60%), and Hispanic Catholics (65%) say agencies should not be able to refuse placing children with qualified gay and lesbian couples.


Endnotes

1 PRRI February 2017 Survey.
2 PRRI August 2016 Survey.

Recommended Citation

Jones, Robert P., and Daniel Cox. “Most Americans Oppose Laws Limiting LGBT Rights.” PRRI. 2017. https://www.prri.org/research/poll-wedding-vendors-refusing-service-same-sex-couples-transgender-military-ban/