Nation slower to back gay sex than marriage

Major generation, relation gaps found

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More Americans support same-sex marriage today than a decade ago, but a majority still believe sex acts between people of the same gender are “morally wrong.”

These and other findings were released the same day the state-level battle over same-sex marriage intensified, as a federal judge in Texas joined courts in Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia in striking down a voter-approved provision recognizing only traditional man-woman marriages as legal.


SEE ALSO: Black pastors group calls for Eric Holder impeachment over gay marriage


A survey of 4,500 adults said public support for same-sex marriage has grown to 53 percent, a significant jump from 32 percent in 2003, when Massachusetts became the first state to recognize same-sex marriage.

The increase was driven by younger Americans, ages 18 to 33, as well as more people reporting having gay friends or family members, according to the report from Public Religion Research Institute.

The generation gap is huge — 69 percent of millennials support same-sex marriage, compared with 37 percent of Americans in the silent generation, who are 68 or older, said Robert P. Jones, chief executive and founder of the institute.

Having a close friend or family member who is gay also has “a profound effect” on support, said Daniel Cox, director of research for PRRI.

In 1993, 22 percent of people reported having a close relationship with someone who is gay. By 2013, that number had jumped to 65 percent.

People with friends or family who are gay are much more likely to support same-sex marriage than those without such relationships — 63 percent to 36 percent, said the report, which was funded by the Ford Foundation.

The survey revealed strong support for same-sex parenting and strong opposition to discrimination against sexual minorities, but also — ironically — a widely held belief that gay sex acts are immoral and same-sex marriage violates religious principles.

Fifty-one percent of respondents said “sex between two adults of the same gender” is morally wrong. An equal majority said same-sex marriage “completely” or “mostly” goes against their religious convictions.

The survey further showed that Americans vastly overestimate the number of people who are gay — 22 percent thought it was a third of the U.S. population.

Only 14 percent of respondents correctly answered that 5 percent or less of the U.S. population is gay, said the PRRI study, noting that in its own data, 1 percent of respondents said they were gay, 1 percent said they were lesbian, 1 percent said they were transgender and 3 percent said they were bisexual.

The survey also asked about the origin of homosexuality and found that 44 percent of Americans believe it is inborn, 36 percent think it develops from upbringing or environment, and 14 percent think it is a combination of nature and nurture.

Respondents’ beliefs about the basis of homosexuality influenced their views about same-sex marriage: About 76 percent of those who believe being gay is inborn support same-sex marriage, while 67 percent of those who think it is derived mostly from outside influences oppose same-sex unions.

Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, a gay-advocacy marriage group, praised the PRRI study — and the Texas ruling — but encouraged more discussions.

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About the Author
Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor.

Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...

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