As if the legislative victory on marriage equality in Washington State were not evidence enough of a major shift in the landscape of public opinion on this issue, Robert Jones of the Public Religion Research Institute has highlighted important data about religious (including Catholic) support for these initiatives. In a HuffingtonPost.com column he writes:
” . . . a new exploration of 2011 polling by Public Religion Research Institute offers decisive evidence that the old assumptions about battle lines between secular proponents and religious foes no longer hold. Majorities of five major religious groups and the religiously unaffiliated favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, compared to three major religious groups who oppose same-sex marriage. On the side supporting same-sex marriage, the religiously unaffiliated (72 percent) are joined by majorities of Jews (76 percent), Americans affiliated with a non-Judeo-Christian religion (63 percent), white Catholics (56 percent), Hispanic Catholics (53 percent) and white mainline Protestants (52 percent). Together, these religious groups make up approximately 45 percent of the general population.”
Even more importantly, Jones notes that even where opposition to marriage equality does exist among religious groups, evidence is strong that the younger generation is much more supportive than their elders, signaling that future change is imminent:
“. . . [A] generational gap signals that with the passage of time, this intense resistance may ebb. Even among white evangelical Protestants — the group most opposed to same-sex marriage — nearly 4-in-10 (39 percent) white evangelical Protestant Millennials favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, a rate that is more than 20 points higher than that of white evangelicals ages 30 and older (18 percent). The same is true of Catholics: 66 percent of Catholic Millennials favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, 15 points higher than Catholics ages 30 and above (51 percent).”
Jones is not the only voice proclaiming this new evidence. On February 7th, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life issued a report that went deeper into the statistics on Catholics:
“Among Catholics as a whole, supporters of same-sex marriage now outnumber opponents (52% vs. 37%). In 2010, Catholics were more evenly divided on the issue, with 46% favoring same-sex marriage and 42% expressing opposition. A majority of white Catholics (57%) now express support for same-sex marriage, while Hispanic Catholics continue to be closely divided (42% favor same-sex marriage, 42% are opposed).”
“In 2008, the ‘gays versus religion’ frame was strongly entrenched in the mentality of the American public. Much of the driving force behind Prop 8, in terms of both organization and money, came from the leadership of the Roman Catholic and Mormon churches. People of faith who were personally supportive of marriage equality didn’t speak out, or felt that their support of LGBT people would be seen as being at odds with their faith.
“That is no longer the case. We are in a new reality.”
Murray’s blog post continues with example after example of religious groups speaking out for marriage equality in the media, including the Catholic coalition, Equally Blessed, of which New Ways Ministry is a member, along with Call To Action, DignityUSA, and Fortunate Families.
Murray notes that the religious voice in political debates is not only good for the outcome of the debate, but good for religious LGBT people themselves:
“It is indeed a new reality. In less than four years, our country has come from being one that pitted LGBT people against people of faith. Those of us who hold both of identities of LGBT and faithful no longer have that same struggle. We are not being called to deny our God or the way that God made us. This affirmation from the courts, the increasing public acceptance, and the leadership of people of faith in the call for LGBT inclusion affirms us in our faith, our identity, and our place in this country.”
(The prolific Murray also has a HuffingtonPost column on the same topic, but from a slightly different perspective. It is definitely worth a read, too.)
And by the way, in the Washington State initiative, which began this post, the only thing left for it to become law is the signature of Governor Christine Gregoire, a Catholic, who has pledged to do so. Reports say that signature can come as early as next week.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry