We already knew that we had reached the tipping point over the last few years, that nationwide marriage equality had become inevitable with majority support, and that Millennials were leading the way, but the Public Religion Research Institute has released an extensive report bringing all of that information into the same place, and the picture it paints is good:
Support for same-sex marriage jumped 21 percentage points from 2003, when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, to 2013. Currently, a majority (53%) of Americans favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry, compared to 41% who oppose. In 2003, less than one-third (32%) of Americans supported allowing gay and lesbian people to legally marry, compared to nearly 6-in-10 (59%) who opposed.
Among the major findings:
Today, roughly equal numbers of Americans say they strongly favor (22%) legalizing same-sex marriage as say they strongly oppose it (20%). By contrast, a decade earlier strong opponents (35%) outnumbered strong supporters (9%) by roughly a 4-to-1 ratio.
Today, majorities of Americans in the Northeast (60%), West (58%), and Midwest (51%) favor allowing gay and lesbians to legally marry, while Southerners are evenly divided (48% favor, 48% oppose).
Political divisions on the issue of same-sex marriage have widened over time. The gap in support for same-sex marriage between Democrats and Republicans has increased from 21 percentage points in 2003 to 30 points today. In 2003, roughly 4-in-10 Democrats (39%) and political independents (39%) favored same-sex marriage, compared to 18% of Republicans. Currently, nearly two-thirds (64%) of Democrats and nearly 6-in-10 (57%) independents support same-sex marriage, compared to only 34% of Republicans. More than 6-in-10 (62%) Republicans oppose same-sex marriage.
In 2003, all major religious groups opposed same-sex marriage, with the exception of the religiously unaffiliated. Today, there are major religious groups on both sides of the issue. Religiously unaffiliated Americans (73%), white mainline Protestants (62%), white Catholics (58%), and Hispanic Catholics (56%) all favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. A majority (83%) of Jewish Americans also favor legalizing same-sex marriage. Hispanic Protestants are divided; 46% favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry and 49% oppose. By contrast, nearly 7-in-10 (69%) white evangelical Protestants and nearly 6-in-10 (59%) black Protestants oppose same-sex marriage. Only 27% of white evangelical Protestants and 35% of black Protestants support same-sex marriage.
Today, nearly 7-in-10 (69%) Millennials (ages 18 to 33) favor same-sex marriage, compared to 37% of Americans who are part of the Silent Generation (ages 68 and older). The generation gap today, or the difference in support for same-sex marriage between America’s youngest and oldest cohorts, is now 32 points, roughly as wide as it was in 2003.
It is difficult to overstate the effect age has on support for same-sex marriage, which is evident even among groups that oppose same-sex marriage. Half (50%) of Millennial Republicans favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, a view shared by only 18% of Republicans who are members of the Silent Generation.Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Americans report having a close friend or family member who is gay or lesbian, nearly three times the number (22%) who reported having such a relationship in 1993. Americans who have a close friend or family member who is gay or lesbian are 27 points more likely than those who do not to favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry (63% vs. 36%). This “family and friends” effect is present across all major demographic, religious and political groups.
- Nearly 6-in-10 (59%) black Millennials say gay and lesbian people should be allowed to legally marry, compared to only 39% of black Americans overall.
- White evangelical Protestant Millennials are more than twice as likely to favor same- sex marriage as the oldest generation of white evangelical Protestants (43% vs. 19%).
The fact that Southerners are now evenly divided is remarkable, and fantastic. Many LGBT people have long written off the South as the region which will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the real world, and in many of the South’s state legislatures, that will indeed be the case. But the fact that we’re now evenly divided in the South bodes well for gays and lesbians in the region. There is still much work to be done, but the fight has become an inevitable win.
Moreover, with the Religious Right’s current fake campaign for “religious freedom,” it’s more important than ever to note that the actual numbers show that the only “religious freedom” they’re fighting for is their own. In case you skimmed, go back and check the first section I bolded, which shows that large majorities of Mainline Protestants, white Catholics and Hispanic Catholics support marriage equality. The Jewish population has long been supportive, but the fact that a full 83% of Jewish Americans support marriage equality is a good indicator that no Religious Right commentator ever has the right to utter the made up word “Judeo-Christian” ever again. There’s not a damn thing “Judeo-” about what they’re pushing.
And of course, the age thing. When you have a full 69% of Millennials, and 50% of Millennial Republicans, supporting equality, you see the future of the United States. Canards about people becoming more conservative as they age are just that — canards. They’re things that older Religious Right folks tell themselves when they’re experiencing self-doubt over whether they’ve wasted their lives fighting unwinnable battles. This should also be a serious wake-up call to the GOP. In ten years, the oldest Millennials will be 43, and the oldest anti-gay Republicans will be dead. As I said in Mother Jones recently, “one would think the GOP would like to be electable among people under 50 sometime in the near future,” so GOP leaders need to take a long hard look at whether pacifying their oldest, most bigoted cohort is really the ticket these days. Among the Republicans I know, I’d suggest that it’s not.
Peruse all the results here. The future for American LGBT people is brighter than ever before. We have to fight off these fake “religious freedom” laws, and we need to focus more and more on educating people about the trans community, but things are looking up. It’s sad that we can’t say that for many other parts of the world, and that’s why the fight is far from over.