Battle lost? Religion surveys see inevitability of same-sex marriage nationwide

by Gregory Tomlin, |
Alone, Christine Weick protests against gay marriage in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington June 8, 2015. A ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges, and whether the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of due process and equal protection under the law covers a right to same-sex marriage; and, if not, whether states that ban same-sex marriages must recognize those performed elsewhere, is expected from the Court by month's end. | REUTERS/Gary Cameron

WASHINGTON (Christian Examiner) – A majority of Americans believe the Supreme Court will overturn all state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage at the end of its session in June, according to a new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI).

Nearly two-thirds of Americans responding to the survey (65 percent) said the high court will overturn state bans on the practice – usually constitutional amendments passed by large majorities – to make the practice legal in all 50 states.

Americans age 18-29 are among the strongest supporters of same-sex marriage (at 72 percent). Only 42 percent of Americans 65 and older support the practice.

Only 25 percent of Americans said they believe the Supreme Court will leave state bans intact.

Responses indicating belief that the Court would strike down the bans were highest among Democrats (71 percent) and Independents (67 percent), but Republicans also indicated a belief the high court would rule in favor of same-sex marriage (58 percent).

According to PRRI, beliefs on what action the Supreme Court will or will not take largely depends on the position supported by the individual.

"Among those who favor same-sex marriage, eight in ten (80 percent) believe the Supreme Court will make same-sex marriage legal nationwide. Opponents of same-sex marriage are divided on the outcome. Nearly half (47 percent) believe that the Supreme Court will legalize same-sex marriage while roughly as many (42 percent) believe the court will uphold the bans," PRRI said in a statement accompanying the survey's findings.

PRRI also cites the growing number of Americans who believe the power to determine marriage laws should be seated with the federal government and federal government alone, a position many who favor traditional marriage reject. Seventy-two percent of those who oppose same-sex marriage believe states exclusively should hold the right to determine their own marriage laws.

Overall, only a slight majority of Americans (51 percent) believe the states should have a role in determining their own marriage laws.

PRRI's poll also finds – not surprisingly – significant differences of opinion among generations, races and religions on the issue of same-sex marriage. , the survey said.

Among the religious, only 35 percent of "non-white Protestants" support making same-sex marriage legal. Opposition to same-sex marriage is typically strongest among black congregations who reject homosexuality and also refuse the legitimacy of analogies drawn between race and sexual orientation.

According to the PRRI survey, 79 percent of "religiously unaffiliated" Americans favor same-sex marriage, while 60 percent of white Mainline Protestants did. Surprisingly, a majority of Catholics (58 percent) also indicated they supported the right for same-sex couples to marry. Among evangelical Protestants, support for same-sex marriage was low (only 29 percent).

The survey also addressed American attitudes on recent religious freedom restoration laws – like those in Indiana – which some have interpreted as allowing a right of refusal for businesses who do not wish to participate in same-sex marriages, such as bakers or wedding services providers, on religious grounds.

"While majorities of most religious groups oppose these so-called "religious freedom" laws, white evangelical Protestants (51 percent) are the only religious group with majority support. Forty-two percent of white evangelical Protestants oppose allowing small businesses to refuse products or services to gay and lesbian people on religious grounds. By contrast, 59 percent of white mainline Protestants, 63 percent of non-white Protestants, and 64percent of Catholics oppose allowing small business owners to refuse service to gay and lesbian people on religious grounds, as do nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of religiously unaffiliated Americans," the survey said.

A recent Gallup survey on support for same-sex marriage in the United States indicated support for same-sex marriage among Democrats was at 76 percent, while among Republicans is was only 37 percent. 

The findings of the PRRI poll were also confirmed by a recent Pew Research Center poll, which claimed 72 percent of Americans believe nationwide recognition of same-sex marriage is inevitable.

"With same-sex marriage legal in 36 states (and the District of Columbia) and the possibility of a Supreme Court decision on its nationwide status, Republicans (72 percent) are just as likely as Democrats (72 percent) and Independents (74 percent) to say that it is 'inevitable' that same-sex marriage will be legally recognized," the Pew poll suggested.

Taken with the PRRI poll, the surveys indicate that while Republicans largely still oppose the practice, many have no faith the Supreme Court will leave decisions on marriage laws to the states.

The Supreme Court's decision will likely fall along ideological lines 5-4, with Justice Anthony Kennedy casting the deciding vote. Kennedy, during oral arguments on in Obergfell v. Hodges in April, said he was having difficulty with the idea of overturning traditional marriage when it had existed for "millennia," but he also signaled to same-sex marriage advocates he could side with them based on the argument of affirming their "dignity."