'March for Marriage' rally reflects steadfast opposition to gay marriage among evangelical Christians

Pew Research/June 19, 2014

By David Masci

At a time when polls show a growing number of Americans favor same-sex marriage, a coalition of groups opposing gay marriage are holding a “March for Marriage” today in Washington, D.C., to demonstrate what organizers call a “deep and wide support for the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” according to National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown.

The tide of public opinion on same-sex marriage has changed rapidly. In just five years, the percentage of adults who say they oppose same-sex marriage has fallen from a majority (54%) to a minority. Today, roughly four-in-ten Americans (39%) say they oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed, according to Pew Research Center polling.

But while opposition to same-sex marriage is still sizable, it is now more concentrated among a few religious groups – particularly white evangelical Protestants. (Many of the groups sponsoring today’s rally are affiliated with evangelical Christianity.)

White evangelical Protestants, many of whom belong to churches that still firmly prohibit gay marriage, tend to be much more likely to oppose same-sex marriage than the general population or other large faith groups. Indeed, seven-in-ten white evangelical Protestants say they oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed. In addition, about half of African-American Protestants (49%), some of whom belong to historically black churches that are evangelical, also oppose gay marriage.

Religion plays a large role in determining why some people might oppose same-sex marriage. In a March 2013 poll, we found that 83% of white evangelicals said gay marriage violates their religious beliefs.

Considerably fewer white mainline Protestants (44%) say same-sex marriage goes against their religious beliefs, and only about a third (32%) oppose same-sex marriage. While some of the larger mainline Protestant denominations say gay marriage is inconsistent with church teachings, many of them have been moving toward greater acceptance.

But religious doctrine is not always the only determining factor. For instance, while the Roman Catholic Church opposes gay marriage and 62% of U.S. Catholics say that same-sex marriage violates their religious beliefs, only a third of self-identified Catholics (33%) now oppose same-sex unions.

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