Latinx Catholics Leading U.S. Church in Support for LGBTQ+ Protections, Survey Finds

Rising U.S. Catholic support for LGBTQ+ equality appears to be caused by strong and growing support for these issue by Latinx Catholics. 

The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), a leader in tracking religious attitudes towards public policy issues, issued findings from its 2022 American Values Atlas. The report notes that U.S. Catholics’ support for the legal rights of LGBTQ+ people has increased over the last eight years to an all-time high in 2022, primarily due to strong advances among Hispanic Catholics, as the report describes the community.

Three out of four U.S. Catholics believe that same-gender couples should be able to marry legally, up from 60% in 2014. And eight in ten Catholics support laws that would protect LGBTQ+ people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing.

The numbers become more astonishing, though, when attitudes of Hispanic Catholics are separated out from the general U.S. Catholic cohort. 78% of Hispanic Catholics oppose allowances for religious-based service refusals–one of the highest percentages of any other religious category. In every issue analyzed in the report, Hispanic Catholics were equally as or more likely to affirm LGBTQ+ rights than their white Catholic counterparts.

Higher levels of support among Hispanic Catholics may be making space for more LGBTQ+ Hispanic Catholics to remain connected with the church: 7% of LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. identify as Hispanic Catholic, which is nearly equal to the percentage of total Americans who claim an LGBTQ+ identity (8%). This “religious affiliation gap” is much smaller than the gap among white Catholics, who comprise 13% of the total population but just 7% of the LGBTQ+ population.

The Hispanic influence on Catholic support of LGBTQ+ issues is also shown by the fact that the overwhelming majority of Hispanic Catholics oppose religious refusals. 64% of white Catholics believe that businesses should be permitted to refuse service to LGBTQ+ people on religious grounds, the lowest rate of support for any measure of LGBTQ+ rights among Catholic groups surveyed.

PRRI’s American Values Atlas has surveyed people in the U.S. every year since 2014 to measure shifting attitudes toward LGBTQ+ rights. The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization interviewed over 22,000 participants this past year, including over 5,000 Catholics.

Strong support for LGBTQ+ equality by grassroots Catholics is in direct opposition to many U.S. Catholic bishops who have campaigned strongly against pro-LGBTQ+ public policy issues. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has been particularly vocal in this regard. Last year, the USCCB filed a legal brief in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 303 Creative v. Elenis case, in which they support practices that would allow businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people. Conservative efforts to hide anti-LGBTQ discrimination under the umbrella of “religious liberty” may have had some impact on white U.S. Catholics’ opinions.

Similarly, the USCCB publicly opposed a bipartisan law guaranteeing marriage equality known as the Respect for Marriage Act, even when other traditional opponents to marriage equality, such as the Mormon Church, supported the law.

And while the PRRI report shows that 80%of U.S. Catholics support laws that would protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing, the Michigan Catholic Conference recently fought against a non-discrimination bills in Michigan which would have guaranteed such protections.

The findings of the American Values Atlas are a testament to the slow work of the Holy Spirit as it softens the hearts of U.S. Catholics toward their LGBTQ+ siblings.

–Ariell Watson Simon (she/her) and Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, April 26, 2023

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