Year after year, the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as Christians shrinks. Year after year, the percentage of Americans who support marriage equality, regardless of sexual orientation, expands.
Are these two trends related? A recent survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute suggests that they probably are. The group’s report on its Millenial Religion, & Gay and Lesbian Issues Survey includes the following chart, displaying patterns in support for legal equality in marriage rights for heterosexual and homosexual couples:
Americans who are not affiliated with any religion support marriage equality for heterosexual and homosexual couples most strongly – 70 percent in favor. After them come religious, but non-Christian Americans, with 67 percent supporting marriage equality. The similarity of these two groups suggests that it’s not religion in general that’s interfering with the legalization of same-sex marriage in many parts of the United States, but Christianity in particular.
Catholic and “White mainline” (what’s a mainline?) Christians have only a tiny majority of support for marriage equality – at 52 and 51 percent, and other Christian Americans have immense majorities of opposition to equality. This survey shows than while some Christians do support marriage equality, but that they’re not a majority within their religion.
On the whole, Christianity isn’t a leading voice for marriage equality in the United States. Secular culture and non-Christian religious culture are leading the way in this cultural trend. Why?
One explanation is that non-religious Americans and non-Christian religious Americans share the position of cultural minorities, and may therefore tend to have greater sympathy with the gay and lesbian minority than the majority Christian culture does. Being outside the norm may bring atheists, humanists, Pagans, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists a greater appreciation for a diversity of domestic arrangements, rather than the single model of family life that many Christians demand all Americans conform to.