The percentage of Americans who say they support legal same-sex “marriage” reached a new high, but support has fallen among weekly churchgoers.
In Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs poll conducted in May 2022, 71% of U.S. adults say they believe “marriages” between same-sex couples should be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriage, a new high with a one-point increase from 2021.
In 1996, when Gallup first began tracking support for same-sex “marriage,” a quarter of Americans (27%) backed legalization. A majority first supported legal same-sex “marriage” in 2011. One month prior to the Supreme Court legalizing same-sex “marriage” in 2015, backing first topped 60%. Last year was the first time support reached 7 in 10 Americans.
As approval climbs in most other demographics, the percentage of weekly churchgoers who back the legalization of same-sex “marriage” plateaued at 44% in 2020 and has fallen to 40% in 2022. Nearly 3 in 5 (58%) remain opposed.
This comes while other groups who have traditionally been opposed have become more affirming. Older adults, those 65 and older, became mostly supportive in 2016. Protestants followed suit in 2017, while a majority of Republicans supported legal same-sex “marriage” for the first time in 2021.
A closer look at the numbers
While weekly churchgoers oppose legalized same-sex “marriage” with the same benefits as traditional marriage, those who attend less frequently are much more supportive. U.S. adults who seldom or never attend church services have been mostly supportive since 2004. The percentage backing same-sex “marriage” has climbed from 52% then to 82% now.
It took longer for Americans who attend nearly weekly or monthly to become mostly supportive, but they’ve been so since 2014. The percentage backing same-sex “marriage” legalization steadily rose from 31% in 2004 to 70% today.
Weekly churchgoers began on a similar trajectory though starting at a lower approval point. In 2004, 20% supported same-sex “marriage.” Approval climbed to 44% by 2020 but has now fallen two percentage points each of the past two years. Support has remained in the same statistical range for the past seven years.
When Lifeway Research asked U.S. Protestant pastors if they see anything wrong with two people of the same gender getting “married,” 24% said no in 2019, up from 15% in 2010. The increase, however, comes entirely from mainline pastors, who jumped from 32% approval to 47% approval. Evangelical pastor support has remained at 8%.
Few pastors have been asked to actually perform a same-sex “marriage” ceremony. Nearly 9 in 10 U.S. Protestant pastors (87%) say that has never happened, according to Lifeway Research. Close to 1 in 10 (9%) say they’ve been asked in the past five years, and another 3% say they have been asked but not in the past five years.