Except for Evangelicals, Majority Believe Gay Marriage has been Positive for America
When I started teaching political science in 1991, gay marriage was still a very divisive topic and few college students were willing to argue openly for laws protecting the rights of the LBGT community. Gay sex was still illegal in many states and conservatives argued that allowing gays to marry would destroy the moral fabric of the nation and undermine the "structure of family life." Republican politicians like Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania compared gay marriage to bestiality. and conservative televangelist Pat Robertson regularly warned his flock that homosexuals and gay marriage would bring God's wrath in the form of hurricanes and other natural disasters.
Since 1991, much has changed for the LBGT community in America. Gay sex has been decriminalized, homosexuals and transsexuals serve openly in the military, and in 2015 the US Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges Those changes also altered the public perception of the LBGT community. Most Americans are quite comfortable with those changes. Yes, some evangelical pastors and conservative politicians still rail against a secularized America, but most of us enjoy a sense of pride in overcoming the scourge of homophobia and discrimination.
Recent polling shows how much public opinion has changed over the last 30 years. In 1996 less than 30% of Americans supported gay marriage according to the Gallup organization. Almost 70% opposed it. Today those numbers have completely reversed. The most recent Gallup poll found that 71% of Americans now believe that same-sex marriages are as valid as traditional marriages. Only 28% now oppose such unions. That's quite a change in such a short period of time.
A Pew Research Organization study released this week found similar results, but with a different set of questions meant to determine if same-sex marriage has been positive for America. 61% of Americans believe that the legalization of gay marriage has been good for the country, with just 37% saying that it has harmed the nation. Younger individuals are more positive about the impact of gay marriage, but even those over 50 feel it has been a net positive for the country, according to the study. The one group that stands out in Pew's survey is evangelical Christians. 71% of them believe same-sex marriage has harmed America. Just 32% of Catholics and 16% of nonreligious individuals agree with them.
So, if you are wondering why most Republican Senators refused to support the Respect for Marriage Act last week, codifying the right to same-sex marriage into federal law, it's not all that complicated. Most of the GOP Senators who voted against advancing the Respect for Marriage Act represent states with large numbers of evangelical Christians in the Southeast and plains states. Evangelicals actually make up a majority of those that reside in several of those states. So, while Republicans in Washington may understand that gay marriage isn't going away, they aren't quite willing to inform their base that it's a losing issue.
By: Don Lam & Curated Content