By Katherine Talalas
Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) — American Catholics’ opinions on same-sex marriage have changed dramatically in the last decade, according to the results of a survey conducted by the Public Religion and Research Institute in Washington.
The survey, released Feb. 26, indicated that 58 percent of white Catholics and 56 percent of Hispanic Catholics now favor same-sex marriage. This is up 22 percentage points from 2003, when only 35 percent of Catholics overall supported same-sex marriage.
Among American Catholics who said they attend Mass weekly, opinions were more divided, with 45 percent of Mass-going Catholics in favor of same-sex marriage.
The Catholic Church opposes same-sex marriage. Catholic teaching upholds the sanctity of traditional marriage as between one man and one woman. It also teaches that any sexual activity outside of marriage is a sin.
Despite their support of same-sex marriage, a majority of American Catholics surveyed said they were aware that their view contradicted church teaching: 53 percent agreed that same-sex marriage went against their religious beliefs.
Catholics also widely supported other legal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals. Seventy-three percent said they would support laws preventing job discrimination against gays and lesbians.
The Catholic Church teaches that gays and lesbians must be protected from unjust discrimination and harassment. In the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, people with same-sex attraction “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity” and “every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”
According to the survey, more so than any other religious group, the Catholic Church is perceived as “unfriendly” to LGBT individuals. Fifty-eight percent of Americans polled think that the Catholic Church is unfriendly to those who identify as LGBT. Fifty-five percent of Catholics polled were just as likely to believe this is true. Among LGBT individuals themselves, two-thirds, or 73 percent, perceive that the Catholic Church is unfriendly to them.
The poll may offer insight into the shifting demographics of the Catholic Church. According to the poll, 70 percent of American millennials say religious groups are alienating people over LGBT issues; 59 percent of U.S. Catholic millennials said they agreed.
Among millennials who said they no longer identified with their childhood religion, about one-third, or 31 percent, said that negative teachings about, or treatment of, gay and lesbian people were a factor in their disaffiliation from religion.
The survey was done in English and Spanish, by cellphone and landline, reaching 4,509 adults ages 18 and over; 937 Catholics were polled, including 651 white Catholics and 231 Hispanic Catholics.
The margin of error was plus or minus 1.7 percentage points for the general sample. No margin of error was given for the subset of Catholics in the study.