The GOP Versus the American Public on LGBTQ Equality

The draft Republican party platform released Monday night takes a hard line against same-sex marriage and LGBTQ rights, calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling to legalize gay marriage and praising “traditional marriage” as the best environment for children.

If formally adopted at the GOP convention in Cleveland this week, the party’s positioning on these issues will stand in defiance of prevailing trends in public opinion – including among the groups in the GOP base that have historically resisted gay rights.

The draft platform declares that “the cornerstone of the family is natural marriage, the union of one man and one woman”:

Our laws and our government’s regulations should recognize marriage as the union of one man and one woman and actively promote married family life as the basis of a stable and prosperous society. … [W]e do not accept the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage and we urge its reversal, whether through judicial reconsideration or a constitutional amendment returning control over marriage to the states.

According to 2016 research by the Pew Research Center, 55% of Americans today favor gay marriage, including 71% of Millennials and even 46% of Baby Boomers.

But even among the groups most resistant to gay marriage – older Americans and white evangelicals, for example  – opposition has been softening. Among white evangelical Protestants, for example, Pew finds that 27% support gay marriage, compared to just 13% in 2001. Support for gay marriage has also grown among the oldest Americans – the so-called “Silent Generation”- 38% of whom now favor gay marriage, compared to just 21% in 2001. Republicans themselves are also shifting in their views – among self-identified Republicans, the share who support same-sex marriage is trending up, from 1 in 5 in 2001 to about 1 in 3 today. And among Independents, many of whom research finds tend to be ideologically conservative, 61% in 2016 support marriage equality.

A majority of Americans have also long supported legal rights short of marriage for gays and lesbians. In 2012, according to Gallup, 78% of Americans supported the right of same-sex couples to inherit each other’s property, 77% favored granting domestic partners access to an employer’s health insurance and other benefits, and 61% supported same-sex adoptions.

On newer issues, however, such as transgender bathroom access, the public is still split. Gallup finds that 40% of Americans today believe individuals should be allowed to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity, while 50% say bathroom access should depend on gender at birth, and 10% are undecided.

On the other hand, Gallup also found that more than a third of Americans say they are “more accepting” than they used to be in their views on same-sex marriage. Only 13% of Americans now say they want gays and lesbians to be “less widely accepted.”

Unfortunately, however, this increasingly shrinking minority seems to include the Republican Party.