New data from the Pew Research Center suggests that American support for same-sex marriage is on the rise, even among white Millennial evangelicals.
In its brief summary of the report, Pew says:
By a margin of nearly two-to-one (62% to 32%), more Americans now say they favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry than say they are opposed.
Views on same-sex marriage have shifted dramatically in recent years. As recently as 2010, more Americans opposed (48%) than favored (42%) allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally. In the past year alone, support has increased seven percentage points: In March 2016, 55% favored same-sex marriage, while 37% were opposed.
White, Millennial Evangelical Support for Gay Marriage Grows
The data doesn’t lie. It’s true: white Millennial evangelical support for gay marriage is increasing—not just by a little bit, either:
Only 35% of white evangelical Protestants favor gay marriage, compared with 59% of them who are opposed.
But, Gen X and Millennial evangelical support of gay marriage has grown.
Around the time of the Obergefell decision, which legalized gay marriage in the United Staes, Gen X and Millennial evangelical support for gay marriage hovered around 30%.
This means that support for gay marriage among white, Gen X and Millennial evangelicals jumped 17% in about two years. That is pretty staggering.
They still lag behind Unaffiliated Americans, of whom 85% support gay marriage and Catholics, 67% of whom support gay marriage.
Republican Support for Gay Marriage Grows
While young evangelicals’ growing support for gay marriage is pretty surprising, perhaps even more surprising is growing Republican support for gay marriage.
About 47% of Americans who identify as Republican or “Lean Republican” in Pew’s survey support gay marriage…and only 48% oppose it.
Like in the evangelical community, the Millennials are leading the way among Republicans toward widespread acceptance of gay marriage.
This graph is fascinating as it shows the change in support and opposition of both parties over time:
As you can tell, I don’t have a lot to say or add to what the data says. It does a pretty good job of speaking for itself.
Youth movements in evangelical and Republican circles are pushing their communities toward broader acceptance of gay marriage. But the question should be asked:
What Caused This?
It’s pretty clear: the Obergefell decision is what led to the increased support of gay marriage among groups that have historically opposed it.
Sarah Pulliam Bailey interviews Glenn Stanton of Focus on the Family on this topic, and his thoughts are helpful:
When young people see an issue legalized, they begin to believe it must be right, said Glenn Stanton, director of Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family. “We see that with pot in Colorado,” he said. “There’s a legitimizing and institutionalizing when you make something legal.”
But Stanton believes the attitude shifts don’t really reflect a change in young evangelicals’ conviction on the issue, which he said was “paper thin.”
“A quality of youth is being idealistic and wanting to believe the world can be a certain way,” Stanton said. “Why can’t we all get married?”
Basically, when something is legalized, people are going to come to see it as morally acceptable, even if their faith’s stance on the subject remains unchanged.
This reality leads to another question:
What Do Church Leaders Do?
I debated including the bit about Republicans in this article because my blog is more about Millennials than it is about politics, but I thought it was important to include them. Here’s why:
We have to understand that large groups of people who fill our churches hold a sexual ethic contrary to the Scriptures in this area.
It’s not just a bunch of young hooligans with rampant morality issues who are changing their beliefs on sexuality.
I think it’s important that a biblical sexual ethic is not assumed in our churches. When we have discussions in small group settings, for instance, we shouldn’t assume we’re all on the “same side” of the issue.
The data is clear that many of the people who occupy church pews and attend small groups do not think alike on this issue.
What this means is that we can’t let the issue of gay marriage become a non-issue simply because the legal fight is over.
Many people in our churches hold to a deformed sexual ethic that is incompatible with the good, created order of God.
As we address this, we must do so with great care and grace. People who misunderstand biblical ethics, sexually or otherwise, are not to be shamed in hopes that they change their minds.
Through gracious, Christ-like, loving guidance, shepherd may help the people in their churches grow in their understanding of how God made sex to work.
Also, don’t miss Pew’s interactive graphs, which are really cool.