(RNS) — The Public Religion Research Institute last week released the latest findings in its ongoing project of assessing Americans’ feelings about LGBTQ issues.
On three issues in particular, Latter-day Saints (Mormons) are still more conservative than the nation, but show a broadening of LGBTQ support compared with past surveys.
1. Same-sex marriage
On the issue of same-sex marriage, Latter-day Saints’ support has been gradually rising along with the rest of the nation’s. In 2011, for example, fewer than a quarter favored allowing same-sex couples to marry legally. In 2021, the survey just released, that had doubled to 46%.
This still lags the nation as a whole. In 2011, PRRI’s canvassing of Americans in general revealed that 51% supported same-sex marriage — “the first year on record in which supporting same-sex marriage was not a minority position.” In 2021, that was 68%, or nearly 7 in 10 Americans.
So overall, support for same-sex marriage has grown in the Mormon community, with the largest jump happening after it was legalized in 2015. Meanwhile, not surprisingly, opposition has also dropped by more than 20 percentage points.
On nondiscrimination toward LGBTQ Americans, Mormons are actually even more supportive than the nation as a whole.
Among Americans in general, 79% say they are in favor of “laws that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination in jobs, public accommodations and housing.” With Mormons the figure is 5 points higher, at 84%.
This likely reflects the effect of the “Utah Compromise” of 2015 and LDS leaders’ attempts in the last several years to publicly support nondiscrimination laws while also continuing to teach that homosexual behavior is wrong. Mormons in the U.S. appear to have received the message that the church wants to ban employers and landlords from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
3. Faith-based refusals of service
On the other hand, Mormons generally feel that it’s permissible for “a small business owner in your state to refuse to provide products or services to gay and lesbian people, if doing so violates their religious beliefs.” Two-thirds (66%) of Americans said that refusing service is not OK, but only 44% of Mormons did.
Only Orthodox Christians (who experienced a significant drop in opposing refusals based on religious beliefs) and white evangelical Protestants scored lower than Mormons in 2021. Unlike white evangelicals, however, Mormons showed some movement on this issue since the question was asked in 2015.
At that time, they tied white evangelicals for last place in opposing “religiously based refusals,” with only 38% of both groups who thought it was wrong for businesses to be able to decline goods and services to gay customers. Today, white evangelicals are still in exactly the same place (38%), while Mormons have grown slightly in their opposition to such refusals of service (44%).
Overall, then, Mormons have broadened their support for LGBTQ rights in three key areas, though they still lag the nation in supporting the right of gay couples to get married — or to walk into any bakery in the country and buy themselves a wedding cake.