A new poll finds that most religious Americans across denominational lines agree that same-sex couples should have the right to marry, including those who attend religious services regularly, busting the myth that religious people remain opposed to marriage equality. Further, nearly a third of young adults who leave their childhood religion cite the hostility to LGBT equality as a prime motivation.
Nearly three-quarters of religiously unaffiliated Americans (73 percent) favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry, as do majorities of Jewish Americans (83 percent), white mainline Protestants (62 percent), white Catholics (58 percent) and Hispanic Catholics (56 percent), according to a poll whose results were released Wednesday by the Public Religion Research Institute in Washington, D.C. However, 59% of black Protestants and 69% of white evangelicals oppose same-sex marriage.
"While many churches and people in the pews have been moving away from their opposition to LGBT rights over the last decade, this new research provides further evidence that negative teachings on this issue have hurt churches' ability to attract and retain young people," said PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones.
Age and having a close friend or family member who identifies as gay or lesbian has an especially large impact on attitudes toward same-sex marriage, with nearly 70% of millennials supporting marriage equality. Even groups known for opposition to same-sex marriage aren't immune to the age factor, with half of millennial Republicans supporting marriage equality.
Regular churchgoers, those who attend services at least once or twice a month, underestimate the level of support from their fellow worshippers.
Nearly 60% of white mainline Protestants believe their peers oppose marriage equality, but in reality opposition clocks in at just 36%. The same is true among Catholics. Nearly three-quarters of Catholics believe their fellow churchgoers reject same-sex marriage, whereas half favor it and 45% oppose it.
The poll also found that over 70% of Americans believe workplace protection laws for LGBT people should exist, and three in four Americans believe incorrectly that federal law currently offers this protection.
Majorities of Americans believe that the Catholic, Mormon, and evangelical churches are hostile to LGBT people, whereas fewer view mainline Protestant churches, African-American churches, and Jewish congregations in a negative light.
About six in 10 Americans believe gay and lesbian couples should have the right to adopt children.
Public Religion Research Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization specializing in research at the intersection of religion, values, and public life.