Christians Divided on Marriage Equality

This evening I went to a marriage equality rally outside of my town’s courthouse. The first speaker was the pastor of one of a local Christian church. She started her address by saying that she wants to challenge the common conception that being Christian meant being anti-gay. She talked about her church’s history as an LGBTQ-friendly congregation. She talked about how nervous LGBTQ individuals often feel when first attending a service at her church, looking around, fearful of condemnation before finally being able to relax.

Then I came upon this graphic on facebook. It lays out support for—an opposition to—marriage equality by religious group in the United States. The numbers used are from 2011.

Note that the only religious groups whose adherents are more likely to oppose marriage equality than support it are black Protestants, Mormons, and white evangelicals. More Catholics and mainline Protestants support marriage equality than don’t, and Jews are more likely to support marriage equality than are those who are unaffiliated. And for that matter, a full 20 percent of evangelicals themselves strongly support marriage equality.

Evangelicals are very good at controlling the conversation and framing the questions. The paint a world in which atheists simply hate God and a world in which marriage equality is something being forced on on unwilling and victimized Christians. Neither is true. I personally think it’s important to counter these mistaken narratives. Why? Well for one thing, because evangelicals stand to benefit if they can convince people that the push for marriage equality is a war “the homosexual agenda” is waging on Christianity. But if it’s clear that there is actually disagreement within Christianity—that there are Christians who fully support LGBTQ rights and believe that marriage equality is God’s will—well, that changes the story an destroys the evangelical narrative.

I also think we need to remember that marriage equality is not the only LGBTQ rights issue. I think it became the centerpiece in the discussion in part because it is such an emotional appealing issue—who can be against love?—but I think we need to remember that it’s not the only battle out there. There are also basic things like access to healthcare and protections against housing and employment discrimination.

And as a side note, my (straight female) friend and I definitely got mistaken for a lesbian couple by a reporter at the rally this evening. Now that’s not something that’s happened to me before!

When Marriage Looks Like the Only Escape
A Matter of Patriarchy
On Indiana
On Orgies, Bisexuality, James Dobson, and Evangelicals
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Marta L.

    Thank you for sharing this, Libby Anne. It does bother me when I hear people talk about all Christians as if they were homophobes. Some are, and too many are silent on this and other issues; but like all groups, the stereotype doesn’t fit everyone and it’s painful to get painted with that same brush.

  • Liz

    Thanks for sharing. I felt forced out of the church by hate (even though I never came out), and it literally brought me to tears today to see so many of my Christian facebook friends change their profile pics to various marriage equality symbols. Many of these people are Christians I grew up and went to school with, and I always just assumed that most of them were against gay marriage. Of course, there’s still a lot of momentum against gay rights in religious communities, as you’ve pointed out, but I feel incredible healing every time even one Christian reaches out and affirms who I am.

    • Deird

      Liz, from what I’ve seen, more and more of us (that is, Christians who were raised in the church) are changing our minds and becoming pro-gay rights. It’s a slow process – but almost every time I discuss this it seems like yet another person has switched over to this side (myself included).

      Don’t give up on us. It happens slowly, but it keeps on happening. And I have yet to see anyone go back the other way…

  • Sarah-Sophia

    To tell you the truth I dislike how the case is centered around the “marriage is better for the children” belief. I’m worried that it will be food for those who demonize unmarried parents. Also, one should not have to rely on getting married to receive better healthcare and protection against housing discrimination.

    • Sarah-Sophia

      Or as a means to get a lower tax rate.

  • Lana

    It will be good when marriage equality is settled nationally, so we can move onto health care and other pressing issues.

  • Joy

    I was still an evangelical when I started supporting gay marriage back in the 1990s. When I talked about LGBT issues to people in church back then they just looked at me like I was crazy; like it never occurred to them that sexual minorities are just as much loved children of God as anyone else. Things are better now though still far from perfect; when people like me leave the evangelical fold for more liberal Christianity or atheism or whatever, I think there is a tendency to polarize as well that is counterbalanced by the younger, more tolerant people.

  • Carys Birch

    Oh the tax thing steams me, it’s nothing but an official morality reward, but it’s based on a morality that is very far from universal, and not even majority. Basically it’s an ego stroke for people like my parents who got married in their early twenties and believe it’s the only right way to live… See even the government says so!

  • Khaliah

    I’ve stood for gay rights since I was in 6th grade, and I’ve stood for gay marriage since early 2000. Why? Because it makes sense.

    These are people who WANT to get married, and BE married to one person for the rest of their lives. That’s how the rest of us feel when we meet that one person who accepts us for who we are, faults and all, and wants to grow old with us.

    Why my brothers and sisters in Christ are so against people wanting to get married is beyond me. We are the ones who decry fornication, and by that logic, anyone who is having sex without being married is committing fornication. If, then, marriage is the solution to fornication, why stand in the way of people who want to get married and stop fornicating? It’s a damn moebius strip of logic that I just can’t wrap my head around.

    I mean, the anti-gay argument that marriage is a “privilege” for straight people is ridiculous because many straight people take that privilege for granted and have run it into the mud without a care in the world. They view history, particularly biblical history, through rose-tinted glasses in believing that men and women always got married and loved each other and treated each other well and loved having children together. Please. Women got married because they HAD to. There were no social or cultural perks for being a single woman because they weren’t allowed to work or own property, because for a long time, women WERE property.

    As for marriage being based on reproduction, well, not everyone can pop out children, nor does reproduction make one’s relationship more valid than another one. Besides, a man and a woman crapping out a couple of kids does not always follow the formula of it becoming a happy, stable household. Why else does CPS exist?

  • perfectnumber628

    Oh man. I got in several arguments yesterday over whether it’s possible for Christians who take the bible seriously to support gay marriage. (Answer is YES, by the way.) It’s like people don’t even want to BELIEVE that other Christians can come to a different conclusion than them, that gay Christians exist and come down on both sides of the question of whether gay marriage is sinful… How can I even have a discussion with these people when they say things like “well it’s a question of whether we’re going to let God set the standard, or we make up our own”?! Like their opinion is GOD’S opinion, and everyone who disagrees is automatically not a “real” Christians or not “really” following the bible… aggggg it makes me so angry.

    And I can’t imagine what it’s like for gay Christians. I can walk away from this “issue” any time I want. Nobody’s debating anything about MY personal life. Gay Christians don’t have that privilege.

    • Steve

      Like those idiots follow all of their god’s rules in the Old Testament

  • Aaron

    Extremely good graph to pass around. The 20%, though, is not “strongly in favor”, it’s total favor (strong and weak). For the white evangelicals, it looks like the strongly favor is closer to 5%, and “favor” is around 15% (but the graph makes it hard to tell). Still, that’s honestly a pretty encouraging number given the rhetoric.