New Survey Showcases Widespread Catholic Support for LGBTQ Equality in the U.S.

From Public Religion Research Institute

New data shows that a majority of U.S. Catholics continue to support the LGBTQ community broadly, demonstrated in three main areas: religious refusal laws, non-discrimination protections, and same-gender marriage.

On the question of religious refusal laws, a recent survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found that 60% of nonwhite Catholics and 56% of white Catholics oppose small business owners being able to deny goods and services to LGBTQ people based on the owners’ religious beliefs.

These percentages have remained relatively constant, though Catholics are lower than other faiths’ level of support. In comparison, 70% of Jews oppose religious refusals, as do 64% of Americans who are not religiously affiliated. When analyzed collectively across religions, PRRI found that: 

“religious affiliation serves as the largest independent predictor of strongly opposing a policy that allows small business owners to refuse service to gay and lesbian people because of their religious beliefs. Members of almost every religious group are significantly more likely than white evangelical Protestants to oppose this policy.” 

Turning to non-discrimination protections, 74% of both white Catholics and nonwhite Catholics surveyed “support legal protections for LGBTQ persons in the areas of employment, public accommodations, and housing.” Bondings 2.0 has previously reported on such research trends regarding non-discrimination protections.

These numbers about Catholics’ views are consistent with other major religious groups’ high support for non-discrimination laws:  

“Solid majorities of all major religious groups support nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people, with the exception of Jehovah’s Witnesses (50%). Three in four or more Unitarian Universalists (88%), religiously unaffiliated Americans (78%), [and] Jews (75%).”

The percentages about religious groups’ views mirror the data collected from the general population. According to PRRI, “72% of Americans favor laws that would protect LGBT people against discrimination” in these same areas. This “current level of support (72%) has remained relatively stable since the PRRI began asking this question in 2011.”

In terms of age, younger individuals ages 18-29 of “most religious groups are more likely than their older counterparts [to] favor nondiscrimination protections…The age gap between young people and seniors is smaller among white Catholics (76% vs. 68%) and Hispanic Protestants (67% vs. 62%).”

PRRI’s survey also demonstrated that support for same-gender marriage among Catholics, as well as people of other  religious affiliations, has slightly increased since the group’s last survey:

Majorities of most major religious groups in the U.S. support same-sex marriage, including more than three quarters of religiously unaffiliated Americans (76%) and roughly two-thirds of Hispanic Catholics (68%), white mainline Protestants (64%), and white Catholics (63%).”

PRRI’s 2018 survey highlighted growing support of same-gender marriage among the general U.S. population, as well as Catholics. For the general population among people who are religiously unaffiliated, there was a 7% increase in opposing same-gender marriage, from “12% to 19% in the 2018-2019 period.”

The 2019 PRRI survey also found similar age distinctions across major religious groups, with a higher percentage of younger religious Americans, including Catholics, in support of same-gender marriage:

“A slim majority (51%) of younger white evangelical Protestants ages 18-49 favor same-sex marriage compared to about one-third (34%) of white evangelical Protestants ages 50 and over. Among most other religious groups, there are slightly more pronounced gaps between those ages 18-49 and those age 50 and older: white Catholics (75% vs. 54%), nonwhite Catholics (71% vs. 59%), nonwhite Protestants (57% vs. 47%), and the religiously unaffiliated (81% vs 69%). Since 2018, support has risen among nonwhite Protestants ages 50 and over (36% to 47%).”

Overall, it is highly encouraging that U.S. Catholics and the general public have maintained or increased their support and advocacy for the LGBTQ community as measured by PRRI’s three benchmarks: religious refusal laws, non-discrimination protections, and same-gender marriage.

PRRI’s findings signify that discriminating against LGBTQ people is becoming culturally unacceptable. Catholics, other major religious groups, and the U.S. public are generally in favor of treating LGBTQ persons with dignity and respect through legal protections.  The research should motivate church leaders in all levels of the Catholic Church to end behaviors, attitudes, and policies which negatively impact the LGBTQ community. 

Brian William Kaufman, New Ways Ministry, April 23, 2020

1 reply
  1. Don Siegal
    Don Siegal says:


    1. Were LGBT persons excluded from the respondent groups?

    2. How many of the respondents knew or had LGBT persons in their families?

    As an 83-year old openly gay Catholic man, I am deeply disappointed that so many of my peers believe that it is okay to discriminate against me with regard to religious refusal laws, non-discrimination protections, and same-gender marriage.

    As for religious refusal laws, I really have no reason to patronize those business; in fact, if I know of such a shop, I will intentionally avoid doing business with them.

    With regard to non-discrimination, as long as there are any that support discrimination—even if only a minority—then the more the need for a federal equality act.

    Finally, same-gender marriage is only protected by the Supreme Court precedent in Obergefell v. Hodges. That precedent is subject to reversal by SCOTUS; consequently, there needs to be federal legislation to protect that right.


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