The Supreme Court delivered two landmark decisions affecting same-sex marriage in the United States yesterday, one expanding the federal definition of marriage and the other allowing California to once again wed gay and lesbian couples. In my latest column for “Figuring Faith,” I examine how rapidly shifting public opinion on same-sex marriage has altered America’s religious landscape and paved the way for the court’s latest rulings.
If we rewind the clock back to 2006—two years after the nation witnessed 12 states banning same-sex marriage in a single election cycle—the debate seemed destined to remain one between secular Americas who supported same-sex marriage and religious Americans who did not. More than six-in-10 (63 percent) religiously unaffiliated Americans supported same-sex marriage, but not a single major religious group approached majority support. Among religious Americans, support ranged from a high of 41 percent among white mainline Protestants, to a low of only 12 percent among white evangelical Protestants (Pew Research Center, 2006).
But the debate can no longer be described as one between nonreligious and religious Americans. Support for same-sex marriage has risen by double digits in every major religious group since 2006. Today, solid majorities of Catholics (57 percent)—including equal proportions of white Catholics (58 percent) and Hispanic Catholics (59 percent)—and white mainline Protestants (55 percent) have joined the religiously unaffiliated (76 percent) in supporting same-sex marriage (PRRI, March 2013). The National Cathedral, which is affiliated with the mainline Episcopal Church, rang its bells at noon on Wednesday in support of the DOMA ruling and opened its doors for a special service for LGBT families and their allies “to celebrate the extension of federal marriage equality to all the same-sex couples modeling God’s love in lifelong covenants.”
To read the full column, head to “Figuring Faith,” my Washington Post blog.