In response to recent events including a federal judge in Texas overturning the state’s ban on same-sex marriage and Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear’s defense of his state’s same-sex marriage ban, this week’s Graphic of the Week examines the changing attitudes on LGBT issues in the South. Since 2003, Southern support for same-sex marriage has more than doubled, from 22 percent in 2003 to 48 percent in 2013. Americans living in the South are now evenly divided on the issue. Southerners are also more likely to believe that gay and lesbian couples can be as good as parents as heterosexual couples today than in the recent past. In 2003, less than half (46 percent) of Southerners said gay and lesbian couples can be as good as parents as heterosexual couples. Today, more than 6-in-10 (63 percent) Southerners believe gay and lesbian couples can be as good as parents as heterosexual couples. Despite this dramatic shift in opinion, a majority (58 percent) of Americans living in the South believe that same-sex marriage violates their religious beliefs, though the percent in agreement has decreased nearly 10 points for both southerners and Americans overall.
Southerners on the whole are evenly divided on the issue of same-sex marriage, but there is a significant generation gap among residents of this region. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Southern Millennials (ages 18 to 33) favor allowing gay and lesbian people to marry, compared to 28 percent of Southerners who are part of the Silent Generation (ages 68 and older). This generational gap is similar to that found among Americans overall. Nearly 7-in-10 (69 percent) Millennials favor same-sex marriage, compared to 37 percent of Americans who are part of the Silent Generation.
The legality-morality gap on the issue of same-sex marriage and same-gender sexual relations is also found in both the country overall and in the South. Although residents in the South are now evenly divided on the issue of same-sex marriage, most Southerners (58 percent) believe that sex between two adults of the same gender is morally wrong while 37 percent believe is it morally acceptable.