Majority of Catholics and Mainline Protestants Support Marriage Equality

The number of secular people who support marriage equality is at an all-time high, but the number of religious people in favor of same-sex marriage is growing steadily, too, according to data compiled by the Pew Research Center.

From the Pew Research Center’s analysis of changing attitudes on marriage equality among different religious groups

As a part of its “LGBT in Changing Times” series, Pew has been monitoring changing opinions on marriage equality in the United States and internationally. Results from the U.S.-based study of 1,500 adults found:

Among people who are religiously unaffiliated, a solid majority have supported same-sex marriage since 2001… and among Catholics and white mainline Protestants, roughly half now express support for same-sex marriage. Support among white evangelical and black Protestants remains lower than among other groups.

A quick breakdown of the numbers, as aggregated by The Advocate:

  • 56% of people said same-sex marriage “goes against their religious beliefs.”
  • 54% of Catholics support marriage equality, up from 40% in 2001.
  • 55% of Protestants support marriage equality, up from 38% in 2001.
  • 23% of white Evangelicals support marriage equality, up from 13% in 2001 (and mostly increasing in the last four years).
  • 74% of unaffiliated Americans support marriage equality.

Furthermore, for those of us who are LGBT, coming out to friends and family (especially those who are religious and/or conservative) proves more important than ever in changing hearts and minds:

A third of the people who participated in the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life said their minds changed on marriage equality because someone they know — either family, friend, or other acquaintance — came out to them as LGBT. Equal percentages of people, 18%, said they now support marriage equality because it’s either inevitable and the world is changing, or because they think the government should no longer dictate marriage on a personal level.

Certainly, that’s a key reason cited by both President Barack Obama and (Republican) Senator Rob Portman when making their announcements supporting marriage equality.

As always, there’s no comparison between secular and religious individuals when it comes to marriage equality — we win every time! — but it’s still worth noting that religious folks are slowly changing their minds, seemingly with every new survey. This can only be a good sign.

About Camille Beredjick

Camille is a twentysomething working in the LGBT nonprofit industry. She runs an LGBT news blog at

  • Art_Vandelay

    That’s funny because my wife went to a Catholic confirmation last week and the Bishop was there (Tobin-RI) and he got up in front of the congregation and challenged all of the Catholics. He flat-out said that if you’re a Catholic and you don’t believe with 100 certainty in Catholic scripture, church doctrine, and social values…you can get up and walk out of this church right now.

    I’ll give you a hint how many did…it’s a nice round number.

  • 3lemenope

    Yeah, but Tobin’s a self righteous dick, so I expect the goose-egg is due to fact that very few Rhode Island Catholics actually care about his point of view or take it seriously.

  • Sven2547

    So they cowed to intimidation. No surprise there. The great thing about the voting system in America is that it’s a secret ballot. In theory, people can (and should) vote based on their honest beliefs, regardless of the mask they choose to wear.

  • JET

    Then they went home, dug out their preferred method of birth control, and had sex just for the fun of it. Catholic hypocrisy is nothing new.

  • L.Long

    Well it could be said that the xtian hypocrites are not doing what it says in their holey buyBull so they will be going to hell.
    Its nice to know that there are a lot of xtians out there that are better then their gawd or their leaders.
    better still is if they would realize that their holey buyBull states WHAT THEY SHOULD NOT DO and no one is asking them to do so, so there is no real reason for them to be against us heathens doing our thing. Cuz that way we go to hell and their heaven aint crowded.

  • Carpinions

    “Majority of Catholics and Mainline Protestants Support Marriage Equality”

    Thank’s OK, because their leaderships don’t, and we all know it’s the be-dazzled of the bunch that matter…

  • Art_Vandelay

    All of you are 100% correct. I understand that their indifference is driven by confirmation bias, it’s just that as long as those moderate Catholics are so willing to make themselves sheep in that position instead of thinking for themselves, the RCC has no reason to pander to them. Even Tobin knew they were being disingenuous but that doesn’t matter one bit. Until they actually stop funding them, they’re just ammunition for them. It doesn’t matter how much of their BS that they reject. That’s the crux of the problem.

  • Emily Helgersen

    Actually, leaders of a number of mainline Protestant churches (ex. Episcopalian) do support marriage equality. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the Catholic leadership to follow suit, but we all know most lay Catholics don’t pay much attention to what their leaders say – to illustrate, two of the European countries with the lowest birth rates nowadays are Catholic Italy and Spain.

  • Emily Helgersen

    Just a question: any information on what percentage of Jews support marriage equality?

  • MD

    The magic effect of coming out:

    My mother was seriously anti-gay when I was growing up. We got into huge arguments about it when I was in high school (I’m straight, but didn’t have a problem with it.) Then a close friend of ours came of the closet, and voila! Him and his boyfriend come over on Christmas Eve and other family events. My mother denies every having said anything discriminatory against homosexuals.

  • Mandy

    Oh I wish I had been there! I go to my parents’ catholic church with them when I’m home (just because I know it’s important to the–they know I’m an atheist). Anyway, last year the priest started a service with the “marriage prayer” which was praying for the government to uphold traditional marriage. I grabbed by 4 year old and walked out. I didn’t care who saw me.

  • Space Cadet

    The cynic in me is looking at the 74% of the religiously unaffiliated who support marriage equality and wondering what the fuck the other 26% are thinking. I went and read the polling questions and methodology hoping there would be a further breakdown of the religiously unaffiliated that would explain this, but I didn’t find anything. I actually hope there is some faction of unaffiliated moral majority that is skewing those numbers, rather than a significant number of secularists who think gay is icky.

  • meekinheritance

    As I point out to my also-atheist brother, there are secularists who are racists, too. Sexual bigotry is no different. Being an atheist doesn’t make you progressive, liberal or fair–people are people.

  • Spuddie

    In most cases religion is just used as a cover for existing bigotry. A way to express it in public without risk of social sanction.

  • ganner918

    I don’t know if this is a valid concern or not, but it looks like in a lot of those graphs that the growth is slowing. We may be running out of potential “converts” – that is to say, the convinceable people are mostly convinced, and those still opposed will largely remain opposed. The death of old, opposed people and coming of age of people who will support it will result in same sex marriage being inevitable nationwide, but I’m afraid the rate of progress may be slowing just as we’re getting over the tipping point in a lot of places.

  • Gus Snarp

    I’m slightly confused by their terminology. Where do the Mormons fit? Are they evangelical? Catholic is clear enough, and I think I have a good idea of what a mainline protestant is, but I don’t think evangelical is clear at all. Instinctively I think of that as being mostly the Baptists, Pentecostals, and similar churches. But does it also include Jehovah’s Witnesses? Mormons? What about Methodists? Methodists were the first group to be considered evangelical, and they’re also listed as mainline and are usually considered fairly liberal (on the other hand, they’re also the church in Footloose and some Methodists are still like that…). A quick perusal of Wikipedia suggest that this nomenclature issue is actually kind of important. We want to differentiate between basically conservative and basically liberal churches, but it turns out that evangelicalism has been considered by some a middle ground between fundamentalist and liberal denominations, although I personally see evangelical as basically the same as fundamentalist. We may need better language to differentiate these groups, especially for a major polling organization, and for the life of me I can’t find a definition in their report on this survey…