Should same-sex marriage be legal?

Debates about same-sex marriage continue to saturate the airwaves, blogosphere, and print news. Polls differ in their findings about the level of support for same-sex marriage, but most that track attitudes over time find that support for same-sex marriage is on the rise.64 In the Relationships in America survey, 42 percent of American adults believe same-sex marriage should be legal, while 31 percent express opposition and 29 percent “neither agree nor disagree” that same-sex marriage should be legal. Thus while supporters outnumber opponents, supporters may not yet constitute a majority given the significant share of ambivalent Americans.

Figure 24.1It should be legal for gays and lesbians to marry in America
42 PERCENT OF AMERICAN ADULTS BELIEVE SAME-SEX MARRIAGE SHOULD BE LEGAL, WHILE 31 PERCENT EXPRESS OPPOSITION AND 29 PERCENT “NEITHER AGREE NOR DISAGREE”.

Millennials are slightly more likely to support legalizing same-sex marriage than their parents’ generation, and quite a bit less likely to express opposition.

Much of the opposition to same-sex marriage is perceived to come from religious groups. While adherents to most major religious faiths are less likely to support same-sex marriage than their unaffiliated peers, this does not mean that religious adherents are united in their opposition. Evangelicals largely oppose same-sex marriage with two-thirds of all Evangelicals saying they do not think it should be legal, and 74 percent of those who attend church regularly saying the same (See Appendix B). Pentecostals and Fundamentalist Protestants report similar opposition. But Catholics don’t appear quite as convinced. In fact, more Catholics support same-sex marriage than oppose it, including moderate and liberal Catholics who are regular attenders at worship services (See Figure 24.1B in Appendix B,) despite the official position of the Catholic Church’s magisterium that marriage is “a bond between a man and a woman.”65 Buddhists and Jews are solid in their support, on average. Thus while opposition to same-sex marriage is strong among Protestants, Mormons, and other Christians, significant religious minorities support it, as do majorities in several faith traditions.


64Gay Marriage.” Pew Research Center. February 23, 2014. Retrieved August 26, 2014.

65Religious Groups' Official Positions on Same-Sex Marriage.” (2012, December 7). Pew Research Centers Religion Public Life Project. December 7, 2012. Retrieved August 26, 2014.

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