Many gay and lesbian Americans are relating to religion differently than they were a decade ago, as a group that was once largely condemned from the pulpit is finding less judgment and more acceptance in America’s places of worship. Many religious leaders are abandoning public denouncements of same-sex relationships, a result of the sharp shift in views among their congregants. Molly Ball takes a look at how this changing religious landscape has fueled political swings on the issue of same-sex marriage in her latest for The Atlantic:
In 2004, just 36 percent of Catholics, the Christian sect most supportive of gay marriage, favored it, along with 34 percent of mainline Protestants; today, it’s 57 percent of Catholics and 55 percent of mainline Protestants. Even among white evangelical Protestants, the most hostile group to gay marriage, support has more than doubled, from 11 percent in 2004 to 24 percent in 2013. “This debate has gone from a debate between nonreligious and religious Americans to a debate dividing religious Americans,” said Robert Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, who has closely tracked the evolution in public opinion.
This change — from most religious Americans opposing gay rights to many of them supporting it — didn’t happen by accident. It is the fruit of an aggressive campaign by a determined gay-rights movement that realized, particularly in the wake of the 2004 elections, that you cannot win politically in America if you are arguing against religious faith. It is a recent development — Jones dates the “tipping point” to 2011 — and it has helped marginalize gay-marriage opponents by discrediting their most powerful claim: that they speak for the religious community.
To read the rest of Ball’s piece, including her interviews with faith leaders from across the political spectrum, click here. And if you’d like to learn more about PRRI’s take on these issues, be sure to check out CEO Robert P. Jones’s recent Figuring Faith column at The Washington Post