- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 18, 2003

The number of Americans against homosexual “marriages” is on the rise with the strongest growing opposition coming from those with strong religious beliefs, according to a national survey released yesterday by the Pew Center.

Fifty-nine percent of Americans oppose homosexual “marriage” — a rise of 6 percentage points since July. The highly committed religious Americans’ opposition to such unions has risen from 71 percent to 80 percent in the same time period.

Evangelical Protestants, both black and white, appear to be one of the few remaining bulwarks against widespread acceptance of homosexuality in an American society where sodomy has been decriminalized and television shows feature homosexual characters.

Whereas 55 percent of all Americans said they believe it is a sin to engage in homosexual acts, 76 percent of highly committed religious Americans do, according to the poll, which was conducted Oct. 15-19 and included 1,515 adults.

Two-thirds (68 percent) of the clergy in evangelical churches sermonize on homosexuality, compared to 49 percent of Catholic priests and 33 percent of the mainline Protestant ministers, the poll said.

Perhaps as a result, 55 percent of evangelical Protestants have very unfavorable views of homosexual men, compared to 28 percent of mainline Protestants and Catholics. Sixty-three percent of the evangelicals said acceptance of homosexuals is “bad for the country,” compared with 30 percent of the others and 31 percent of the general public.

Seventy-three percent of “highly committed” evangelicals believe sexual orientation can be changed, compared to 36 percent of mainline “highly committed” Protestants, 30 percent of Catholics and 21 percent of the secular public.

Republicans overwhelmingly would oppose a 2004 presidential candidate who favors homosexual “marriage” — 75 to 15 percent — whereas Democrats are split 46 percent for and 48 percent against, said Scott Keeter, an associate director at Pew. This will enable Republicans to use the issue as a wedge to split opponents, he suggested.

“Democrats need to frame [same-sex unions] in terms of equal protection and take it out of the religion category,” he said. They also need to package homosexual “marriage” in terms of fairness, rights of homosexuals to inherit their partners’ property or to make medical decisions for their loved ones.

“They can convince people more on those grounds more than saying, ‘This is something the church should be in favor of,’” he said.

Opinions on homosexuality tend to be more negative among evangelical blacks and whites. Whereas 43 percent of mainline Protestants and 46 percent of Catholics have a favorable opinion of homosexual men, black Protestants (who are overwhelmingly evangelical or Pentecostal) poll as 62 percent unfavorable; white evangelicals poll at 69 percent.

Homosexuality is viewed as a sin by 88 percent of white evangelicals, 74 percent of black Protestants and 64 percent of white Catholics, compared to 18 percent of secular respondents.

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