Christians and Same-Sex Marriage: a Status Report

Next time you hear somebody talk about “Christians” being opposed to same-sex marriage, or being “persecuted” for their refusal to acknowledge same-sex marriages, you might want to direct them to fresh data from the Public Religion Research Institute about the different attitudes of different denominational categories of religious folk on this subject (h/t Sarah Posner).

PRRI shows that while white evangelical Protestants do indeed oppose same-sex marriage by a 28/66 margin, white mainline Protestants support it by a significantly larger margin (62/30) than the general public (54/38). And if you want to believe us mainliners are a dying breed, there’s U.S. Catholics, who despite their church’s teaching support marriage equality by 60/30.

There’s a lot of fascinating detail in the PRRI report. Black Protestants are a mirror image of overall public opinion on the subject, with 38% supporting legal same-sex marriage and 54% opposing. Yet 42% of American Muslims support marriage equality, not what you’d necessarily expect.

Yes, religiously “unaffiliated” Americans remain in the vanguard on marriage equality, supporting it by a 77/18 margin. But the fact remains that religious folk, including Christians, are both more and less likely than Americans generally to support same-sex marriage, depending on their particular orientation. Indeed, one of the interesting things about the PRRI report is that it slices and dices particular Christian traditions according to where they fall on the evangelical/mainline divide, reflecting the fact that Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, etc., are increasingly divided into these two camps, on both theological and moral/political grounds. But anyone seeking to hurl thunderbolts against marriage equality in the name of “Christians” is either ignorant or is arrogating the right to exclude many millions of believers.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.