The survey on attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender people comes as U.S. lawmakers and courts are
increasingly allowing same-sex couples to wed.
Some 53 percent of the 4,509 Americans surveyed by the Public
Religion Research Institute said they supported gay marriage, up
from 32 percent in 2003, when Massachusetts became the first state
to legalize it.
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia recognize gay
marriage, with bans overturned in several states after the U.S.
Supreme Court ruled in June that legally married same-sex couples
were eligible for federal benefits.
Fewer Americans who describe themselves as religious oppose same-sex
marriages, the survey found. Negative church teachings or treatment
of gay couples was cited by 31 percent of millennials, or people 18
to 33, as a major factor in leaving their childhood religion.
"This new research provides further evidence that negative teachings
on this issue have hurt churches' ability to attract and retain
young people," said Robert Jones, chief executive of the institute.
Jews were most likely to support gay marriage, with 83 percent
saying they did so, followed by 58 percent of white Roman Catholics
and 56 percent of Hispanic Catholics. Among Hispanic Protestants, 46
percent favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry and 49
percent oppose it.
By contrast, 59 percent of black Protestants and 69 percent of white
evangelical Protestants oppose same-sex marriage.
Nearly three-quarters, or 73 percent, of religiously unaffiliated
Americans favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally.
The survey also underscored misconceptions about gay rights. Only 15
percent of Americans correctly said that it is legal to refuse to
hire someone because he or she is lesbian, gay, bisexual and
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Those polled also overestimate the size of the LGBT population, with
a median estimate of 20 percent. Just 14 percent of Americans
accurately say that it was 5 percent or less.
Among the U.S. regions, majorities in the Northeast, West and
Midwest favor letting gay and lesbian couples marry. Southerners are
split, with 48 percent opposing it and 48 percent favoring it.
In an effort to kick-start same-sex marriage in the South, Freedom
to Marry, an advocacy group, launched a $1 million campaign on
Monday to build support for it in the region.
None of the 17 U.S. states that recognize gay marriage are located
in the Southeast, where several states still have bans on the
practice in their state constitutions.
Since mid-December, federal judges have ruled bans on same-sex
marriage in Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia unconstitutional. Those
decisions have been stayed pending appeals.
Court challenges of same-sex marriage bans are pending in several
other states. Thirty-three states ban same-sex couples from
The survey was carried out between November 12 and December 18,
2013, and was funded by the Ford Foundation. The margin of error is
1.7 percentage points.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Scott Malone and Meredith
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