Americans remain divided over whether people of faith should have the ability to refuse service to same-sex weddings.
According to a new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), 48 percent of Americans believe wedding providers — including florists, bakers, and photographers — should be required to cater same-sex marriages, even if doing so violates the proprietor’s sincerely held religious beliefs. Meanwhile, 46 percent say it should be illegal to force people to go against the tenets of their faith.
Interestingly, more people are in favor of religiously based refusals by wedding-based businesses in PRRI’s 2018 survey than when the nonpartisan research firm polled Americans on the subject one year ago.
In 2017, just 41 percent of people said it should be OK for people of faith to turn away same-sex couples seeking assistance for their nuptials, while the majority of individuals (53 percent) felt at the time that denying service to people because of who they are should be against the law.
As PRRI notes, the biggest demographic shift has been among black Americans. Just 36 percent of this population favored religious refusals on the part of wedding providers a year ago, while 45 percent agree with them now.
Overall, the most likely groups to support the right of wedding-based businesses to deny services to same-sex nuptials are Republicans (73 percent) and white evangelical Protestants (70 percent). In addition, men (52 percent) are more likely than women (40 percent) to believe it should be legal to discriminate in the name of faith.
What’s changed over the past year to inspire such a dramatic shift in opinion?
In June, the Supreme Court sided narrowly in favor of Jack Phillips in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Charlie Craig and David Mullins filed a complaint with the state’s civil rights commission in 2012 after Phillips refused to provide a cake for their wedding ceremony, and the government agency ruled the baker had violated their rights under Colorado’s nondiscrimination laws.
The Supreme Court reversed that decision in a 7-2 ruling over procedural issues. Judges claimed commissioners had illustrated unconstitutional bias against people of faith in weighing the case while declining to weigh in on the validity of “religious liberty” claims.
PRRI says subsequent SCOTUS rulings over religious refusal laws like Indiana’s since-amended Religious Freedom Restoration could further impact public opinion.
“While support for same-sex marriage and broad rights for LGBTQ people continue to increase, opinions are less settled in specific areas such as religiously based service refusals, especially in the context of wedding service providers,” claimed PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones in a statement.
“[T]he Supreme Court will likely have another say on this and other related issues, and Judge Kavanaugh, if confirmed, could end up being the deciding vote,” he added.
Although the Trump administration has pushed to give broad license to religious people to discriminate in the name of their “sincerely held religious beliefs” in health care, housing, and employment, surveys indicate the public remains against broad-based refusals — even despite similar shifts.
Today, nearly half of Americans (49 percent) believe small businesses should not be able to refuse services to LGBTQ people, while 42 percent say it should be OK to turn away queer and trans people for religious reasons.
Fifty-six percent of people opposed religious exemptions for small businesses one year ago.
Support for LGBTQ rights has otherwise remained constant in the face of a growing divide over religious refusal laws. Support for same-sex marriage is at a record high: 64 percent of people say all couples should have the right to wed, while just 28 percent oppose marriage equality. The percentage of same-sex marriage supporters has shot up nine percent since the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges ruling in 2015.
Meanwhile, PRRI finds that 71 percent of individuals support LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination laws in housing, employment, and other public accommodations.
Read the full report here.