Beliefs

Americans split on businesses turning away gay weddings

Elizabeth Ladd, owner of River Knits Fine Yarns, poses while holding up a "This businesses serves everyone" sticker she plans to place outside her business in downtown Lafayette, Indiana on March 31, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Nate Chute *Editors: This photo may only be used with RNS-POLLS-INDIANA, originally transmitted on April 2, 2015.
Elizabeth Ladd, owner of River Knits Fine Yarns, poses while holding up a "This businesses serves everyone" sticker she plans to place outside her business in downtown Lafayette, Indiana on March 31, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Nate Chute *Editors: This photo may only be used with RNS-POLLS-INDIANA, originally transmitted on April 2, 2015.

Elizabeth Ladd, owner of River Knits Fine Yarns, holds a “This business serves everyone” sticker she plans to place outside her shop in downtown Lafayette, Ind., on March 31, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Nate Chute
*Editors: This photo may only be used with RNS-POLLS-INDIANA, originally transmitted on April 2, 2015.

(RNS) A host of governors, CEOs and church leaders call Indiana’s new religious freedom law a backdoor opening to anti-gay discrimination, but Americans appear more divided on whether a wedding-related business should have the right to turn away a gay customer.

The law, which critics say would allow owners of small businesses to invoke their faith to refuse service to LGBT customers, applies most apparently to wedding vendors — bakers, photographers and florists, for example — who cite their faith in opposing same-sex marriage.

Where is the American public on this debate? It depends on how the question is asked.

A February Associated Press poll found that 57 percent of Americans believe a wedding-related business should have the right to refuse service to a gay couple on religious grounds, as opposed to nearly 4 in 10 Americans (39 percent) who said that religious exemption — which Indiana’s new law explicitly allows — is wrong.

In addition, 50 percent said that local magistrates shouldn’t have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if it contradicts their religious beliefs.

Days after Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act on March 26, Arkansas lawmakers passed a similar law, despite the national outrage provoked by Indiana’s. The Indianapolis-based Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) have vowed to move its 2017 General Assembly out of state, and the governors of Connecticut, New York and Washington have barred state employees from traveling on official business to Indiana.

On Thursday (April 2), Indiana lawmakers unveiled a new bill to clarify that the religious freedom law cannot be used to deny services to anyone, but the language has angered supporters of the religious freedom law, who call the new bill a retreat, and some business leaders who say the new measure doesn’t go far enough. Meanwhile, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, also a Republican, has asked for changes before he signs his state’s bill.

Other polls show less sympathy for business owners who support RFRA laws.  

A survey on wedding services and gay couples, released last September by the Pew Research Center, found that 47 percent of respondents thought it should be legal for businesses to turn away gay brides and grooms on religious grounds, compared with 49 percent who said they should be required to accept them as customers.

But Americans register far different attitudes about service to gay customers when the question does not mention a wedding. Then, there is little sympathy for those who would invoke religion to turn away gay customers. A 2014 Public Religion Research Institute survey found a mere 16 percent of Americans supporting small-business owners who would turn away a gay customer for religious reasons, and 8 in 10 said it should be legal.

Asking specifically about turning away gay couples headed to the altar does seem to make a difference to Americans, who in general come out strongly against anti-gay corporate discrimination, said Dan Cox, PRRI’s director of research.

Americans don’t like the government telling people what to do when it comes to religion, Cox said, but they also strongly reject discrimination against gays in the marketplace.

“But when these two values conflict,” he said, “and the question is so narrowly constructed, they may answer it narrowly, and reason that allowing a small subset of businesses to turn away gay customers would not have such sweeping discriminatory effects.”

KRE/MG END MARKOE

About the author

Lauren Markoe

Lauren Markoe has been a national reporter for RNS since 2011. Previously she covered government and politics as a daily reporter at the Charlotte Observer and The State (Columbia, S.C.)

17 Comments

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  • Being gay is not a choice(according to gay experts); being a Christian is a conscious choice!

    With any choice comes responsibility and accountability.

  • Being gay, choice or not, means being responsible and accountable also. Gays need to recognize that they are a minority and should stop throwing their lifestyle in the world’s face, as if its a virtue or a handicap. Grow up…..your parents aren’t gay remember.

  • I gave $20 to the Memories Pizza fundraiser in Walkerton IN. The effort by the leftist media to destroy this Christian family-run business is beginning to backfire. Last time I checked the donations were nearing half a million.

  • I give to many many charities, mostly to help the poor and downtrodden. This, however, is just a local family that got in the way of the (inter)national gay-activist meat grinder. Those are some very very bizarre people. And their aim was merely to destroy a family business. I’ll give to them all day long. Larry, I hope you’ll pitch in.

  • Well said, Greg. Thanks.

    I hope you’re right about the amount that has been raised, because for all practical purposes the pro-gay economic terrorists have pretty much “car-bombed” that pizzeria for a long-time, if not permanently.

    Honestly, I think I might send MemoriesPizza a little *dough* myself.

  • You are gullible saps!

    Ms. O’Connor is now making more money from Christian bigots than she ever would have running a pizzeria in a podunk midwest suburb.

    What a great business plan!

    Say something stupid, offensive and topical on local media, start martyrbaiting by claiming to be victimized by your own stupid and offensive remarks, then hit bigots up for money out of sympathy.

    Are you guys really such easy marks?

    I guess. That’s why televangelists have Gulfstreams and their followers live in trailer parks.

  • Sorry, giving to media wh0res is not a form of charity. But it does appear to be “the christian thing to do”. Wow, how gullible are you Greg?

    So if a Christian sets fire to their shop, are you going to give them money because they lost their business? I guess so.

  • Of course not. It is to pay for Ms. O’Connor’s future business as a political speaker. Wingnut welfare

  • I’ve wondered if it’s possible to find a middle ground. It’s either legalized discrimination based on sexual orientation in all circumstances or no circumstances. Isn’t there something in between? Couldn’t there maybe be some exceptions for religious ceremonies without throwing the baby out with the bath water?

    This is exactly the same rhetoric that was going around in the 60’s over civil rights for african americans and inter-racial marriage. People made the same religious freedom claims to defend racism.

  • There is never an excuse for legalized discrimination in open commerce. You want a compromise, then if you are so overcome by religious fervor that you are compelled not to treat a customer like a human being at all times, then don’t be in OPEN commerce.

    Do business within your little sect only. Don’t advertise to the general public since obviously you are not mentally prepared to deal with the general public. This is why you have membership clubs and the like. You are allowed to discriminate if you are not serving the general public.

    None of this requires new laws or anything different. Just showing respect for the general public.

  • Couldn’t we possibly find some way to reach a middle ground on discrimination against Jews? After all, we no longer have country clubs that expressly exclude them, and no one has murdered 6 million of them for over 70 years.

    Right now there are exceptions for “religious ceremonies.” It’s call the FIRST AMENDMENT.

  • Larry,

    “Say something stupid, offensive and topical on local media, start martyrbaiting by claiming to be victimized by your own stupid and offensive remarks, then hit bigots up for money out of sympathy.

    Are you guys really such easy marks?

    I guess. That’s why televangelists have Gulfstreams and their followers live in trailer parks.”

    You couldn’t have said it in more precise terms.

  • If a small business faces legions of knuckle-dragging, violence-spewing bullies who are no better than the goons from a Goodfellas movie, just because the daughter gives an answer to a question they don’t like, then the goons have made any person who has any sense of decency into a potential donor to the family, regardless of their views of the immediate issue at hand.

  • Let’s stipulate that there are “knuckle dragging violence spewing bullies” on both sides of the political/religious divide who are just looking for an excuse to rant and create mayhem. Today’s profit-driven/rage driven media provides the arena for the spectacle and we are only too happy to oblige them. Should we paint each side using the broad brush of their worst followers?

    Now, can somebody please explain to me why religiously devout people target gay weddings to discriminate against while not screening all their clients for sinful behavior?

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