Majorities of US & Canadian Catholics Support Marriage Equality

A new Quinnipiac University poll finds American support for marriage equality growing, especially among Catholics, just as Supreme Court oral arguments around the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 are about to be heard in late March. A separate Canadian survey shows similar results for Catholics in that nation.

Quinnipiac’s survey results indicate that Catholic support is driving the expansion of marriage rights nationwide. 54% of Catholics polled are in support of marriage equality and only 38% in oppose, improved from a 49%-43% split in December 2012. Researcher Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said:

“‘Catholic voters are leading American voters toward support for same-sex marriage…Among all voters, there is almost no gender gap, but a big age gap. Voters 18 to 34 years old support same sex marriage 62 – 30 percent; voters 35 to 54 years old are divided 48 – 45 percent and voters over 55 are opposed 50 – 39 percent.’”

This gap among Catholics mirrors the emerging demographic trends around marriage equality reported on during an analysis of 2012 election exit polling recently released. Three states, Maryland, Washington, and Maine approved marriage equality ballot measures, while Minnesotans defeated a constitutional amendment to define marriage as one man and one woman during the 2012 elections. The Washington Post reports that exit polling showed:

“…resistance to same-sex marriage is shrinking and mainly concentrated among certain segments of the population: older people, white evangelical Christians and non-college-educated whites…

“‘Significant opposition to the freedom to marry is increasingly isolated within narrow demographic groups while a much broader and more diverse majority are ready to let same-sex couples marry,’ wrote Joel Benenson, who led President Obama’s polling operation in 2008 and 2012, and Jan van Lohuizen, who did the same job for former president George W. Bush…

“White evangelical Christians opposed same-sex marriage by nearly 3 to 1. But every non-evangelical group — other white Protestants, white Catholics, Hispanic Catholics, African American non-evangelicals and Jewish voters — expressed support for such unions by double-digit margins.”

Similar polling reveals that Canadian Catholics support marriage equality as well.  The Vancouver Sun reports on a recent University of Lethbridge poll:

“What about homosexuality? The Vatican continues to teach that homosexuality is a sinful ‘disorder.’

“But Canadian Catholics are increasingly accepting. Half approve of ‘same-sex couples marrying.’ An additional one in four Catholics acknowledge they disapprove of homosexual relationships, but “accept” them anyway…

“What of Europe, that other bastion of so-called ‘Western’ values? The rights of women and gays and individual freedom remain paramount throughout most of Europe, including in Italy, Spain and France, where the strong majority continue to say they are Catholic.”

Most interesting in much of the polling for Westernized Catholics is the strong religious identity expressed by those who overwhelmingly support LGBT equality. Previous distinctions on marriage equality between those considered ‘culturally’ Catholic who do not routinely attend Mass and those who attend Mass weekly are disappearing. The Quinnipiac University polling of US Catholics reported 90% of those surveyed consider their Catholic faith either fairly important, or for 57% very important, in their lives.

What do you think? Do an increasing number of Catholics support marriage equality in full harmony with their Catholic faith, not in spite of it, because of a growing understanding that LGBT rights are matters of justice and dignity? Or is it shifting demographics in age and ethnicity of the Church that merely mirror societal trends towards LGBT equality? Perhaps both? Leave your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

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7 Responses to Majorities of US & Canadian Catholics Support Marriage Equality

  1. K. Miller says:

    It is interesting that the voice of the people is not heard by the church or the people in Washington.

  2. Janet Edwards says:

    What a blessing to have Catholics stepping out to live the essence of Christian faith by recognizing the love and commitment of lesbian or gay couples for what it is: marriage!

    I have a question to ask:

    Is there any merit in comparing the Republican effort to suppress the minority vote in the last election and the backlash of concerted effort by minorities to vote to the negative messages of the Catholic hierarchy concerning same-sex marriage and the surge among Catholics to stand up for love? In other words, is the stance of the hierarchy fueling, rather than hindering, this shift?

    • I think Catholics are standing up because of how their faith has informed their consciences about equality, justice, and human dignity. I think it is less about a backlash against the bishops. But this is a question that would require further research by pollsters to answer with any certainty.

      • Barbara says:

        I love that first line in particular: “their faith has informed their consciences about equality, justice, and human dignity.” This is the Church living the Gospel.

  3. Ned Flaherty says:

    Among America’s many voter types, there are only five demographic groups left where opponents of equality still show up: less educated Caucasians (56%), the over-65 crowd (58%), Republicans (69%), evangelical Protestant Caucasians (73%), and Tea Partyists (nearly 100%). Those five are the only opponent hide-outs left; every other demographic group measured in a major national poll now supports same-gender marriage.

  4. jconnolly says:

    The reason American support for marriage equality is growing, especially among Catholics, is because we confuse this issue in terms of “fairness,” “discrimination,” and misplaced sympathy. The Catholic Church teaches that homosexuals “…must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided…Homosexual persons are called to chastity.” (CCC paragraphs 2358, 2359)

    It does our gay brothers and sisters no favor to ignore the impossibility of “gay marriage,” an oxymoron.This is not in any way unjust discrimination, but an acknowledgment of the Truth of the revealed Natural Law and the Divine intent for marriage for the human race. The nature of this institution is ordained by our Creator and is the foundation of civil society.

    For many centuries gay couples have formed long-term, committed and admirable love relationships, as I have. But wanting these designated as “marriages” sanctioned by the government, much less the Church, is absurd and completely impossible, no matter what laws are enacted or legal rulings issued. This in no way diminishes the holy, deep love and commitment shared by same-sex couples.

    • Ned Flaherty says:

      No, support for equality is not growing because anybody is “confused” (as J. Connolly wrote). On the contrary, it’s growing because confusion is actually receding.

      Yes, the Roman Catholic church does teach that “every sign of unjust discrimination” is to be avoided. Ironically and iconically, the church itself is precisely and famously just one of those signs. That’s why it is losing members in increasing numbers.

      The notions of “natural” law and “divine” intent are religious superstitions embraced as a crutch solely to support bigotry, just as the church long — and wrongly — insisted that the sun travels around the earth instead of the earth around the sun, and then took those who correctly understood science and unjustly punished them as heretics.

      As millions of same-gender couples have already proven in 14 nations and 10 American states, true marriage is, indeed, possible, and the presence of civil marriage merely recognizes that fact.

      The only absurdity here is J. Connolly’s admission that same-gender couples share “long-term, committed, and admirable relationships” consisting of “holy, deep love and commitment” yet at the very same time he demands lifetime celibacy from LGBT people because of his mistaken assumptions that a supernatural deity requires this, and that civil society will crumble if civil marriages are recognized.

      J. Connolly should grant modern science all that it is due before he imposes mere assumptions, which recklessly ruin other peoples’ lives just to satisfy Bronze-age folklore.

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