No matter how the Supreme Court eventually rules on gay marriage rights, most Americans have dialed up the “Friends” theme song.
When it comes to gay marriage, abortion, religious tension and other touchy issues today, we’re “there” for our friends, supportive rain or shine.
But not so much for strangers.
A new survey from LifeWay Research finds Americans with LGBT friends are twice as likely to agree that same sex couples should have the right to marry.
The rapid expansion of legal gay marriage to 37 states and the District of Columbia also may have made a difference in attitudes: People discovered gay co-workers and acquaintances they already know and like — but may not have known are gay – are now newlyweds.
“When it comes to support for gay marriage, a lot of it depends on who you know,” says Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, in a press release Thursday (April 16) on the survey of 2,000 U.S. adults. “Those who say they have gay or lesbian friends are the most open to gay marriage.”
The friend-factor is true on sexuality issues, too.
The Public Religion Research Institute, in a recent study on millennials, found they accept their friends and often exempt them from judgments they might make of strangers
The PRRI survey found most (79 percent) of women who say they have had an abortion say it should be legal in some or all cases, compared to 55 percent of millennials overall. Among those who say a friend or close family member had an abortion, 63 percent hold this view.
The “friends” affect is true on attitudes toward other religions, as well.
A 2014 Pew Research survey found U.S. adults feel most warmly about people who share their religion or those they know as family, friends or co-workers. Even tiny groups such as Jews got a boost on the social thermometer from their ties with Christians. People who say they personally know someone of another religious group rated them 10 to 20 points higher.
Even so, no matter how wide spread our friend networks, there’s no guarantee that the culture — or the law that often lags behind it — will move to our personal grove. The friends-and-family tilt is irrelevant– at least theoretically – for those whose roles require they stick to doctrine or law.
The new LifeWay data also looked at a separate survey of Protestant pastor’s views on same-sex marriage, It found 80 percent oppose it, a statistical tie with the finding of 83 percent in 2010.
“Church leaders have traditionally been seen as the champions of all things moral in society,” said Stetzer. “As public perceptions of morality change, pastors find themselves in an increasingly unpopular position.”
Will the Supreme Court justices find themselves in the uncomfortable spot? Will their personal experiences in life color their views? Do they hear that tune…
“I’ll be there for you
(When the rain starts to pour)
I’ll be there for you
(Like I’ve been there before)
I’ll be there for you
(‘Cause you’re there for me too)”