For most, gay equality trumps religious objections
In the wake of two favorable Supreme Court decisions, gay rights proponents got another boost last month with the release of “State of the First Amendment: 2013,” a public opinion survey supported by the First Amendment Center.
According to the new poll, a majority of Americans (62 percent) now agree that religiously affiliated groups receiving government funds can be required to provide health benefits to same-sex couples, even if the group has religious objections to same-sex marriage or partnerships.
Support for equal treatment of gay couples is highest among young people ages 18-30 (68 percent) and among Americans who identify as liberal (82 percent).
But a surprising number of evangelicals (41 percent) and conservatives (44 percent) also favor requiring religiously affiliated groups receiving tax dollars to provide health benefits to same-sex partners.
When government funds aren't involved, public support for equal treatment of gay couples drops to a slim majority.
Fifty-two percent of Americans believe that businesses providing wedding services to the public can be required by government to provide services to same-sex couples, even if the business owner has religious objections to same-sex marriage.
Here again, support for nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is highest among people under 30 (62 percent) and liberals (70 percent) and lowest among conservatives (34 percent).
Non-religious (59 percent) and Catholic (61 percent) Americans are more likely than Protestants (39 percent) to support requiring businesses to serve gay couples on the same basis as other couples.
These findings suggest that the gay civil rights movement has reached a tipping point in the United States. For a growing majority of Americans, sexual orientation is fast joining race and gender as a human trait that should not subject any person to discrimination.
For people with religious objections to homosexuality, this trend toward equal treatment for same-sex couples is seen as a threat to religious freedom. Religiously affiliated groups, they argue, must be free to follow the teachings of their faith — even when taxpayers fund the social services they offer.
Proponents of same-sex marriage have acknowledged the need to guard religious freedom — but in much more limited ways.
States that recognize same-sex marriage, for example, have restated in various ways the right of religious groups to define marriage according to the tenets of their faith. Under the First Amendment and various state laws, no house of worship or religious leader can be forced to marry same-sex couples or recognize same-sex marriages.
But advocates for marriage equality — now supported by a majority of Americans — draw the line on religious freedom when religious groups take government funds or when private businesses open their doors to the public.
When two cherished rights clash — the right to be free from discrimination and the right to follow the dictates of religious conscience — society must make painful choices that inevitably uphold one at the expense of the other.
According to the latest numbers, most citizens now believe that our commitment to nondiscrimination must trump religious objections to homosexuality in the public square of America.
Charles C. Haynes is senior scholar at the First Amendment Center.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers won’t negotiate Roethlisberger extension until after season
- LaBar: John Cena leaving WWE for Hollywood?
- National city organization chooses Pittsburgh for 2016 gathering
- Five questions facing Steelers entering training camp
- Steelers cut linebacker Kion Wilson, sign cornerback Toler
- More than 800 marijuana plants seized in Washington County
- Suspended Penn-Trafford teacher charged with stalking student
- Penn State to announce new athletic director
- Motorcycle runs off road in Butler County, kills Shaler man
- Injured eagle in Somerset County returns to the wild
- North Huntingdon woman charged with threatening to burn down officer’s house