We have a new article up at Newsweek/Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog about what the recent legalization of same-sex marriage in New Hampshire reveals about the intersection of religion and same-sex marriage. You can read the full piece here.
One June 3, New Hampshire governor John Lynch signed into law a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in the state, making it the sixth state to affirm marriage equality. The passage of the New Hampshire law highlights the complex role of religion in the debates over marriage equality.
Mainline Protestant Dominance in States with Marriage Equality
First, there is an interesting religious-affiliation pattern emerging from the mosaic of states that have legalized same-sex marriage: Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Whereas white evangelical Protestants outnumber white Mainline Protestants in the general population (26% compared to 18%), white Mainline Protestants are the dominant Protestant voices in the six states that have marriage equality laws.
This pattern is consistent with recent polling that shows strong support for gay and lesbian equality among mainline Protestants in the general population. For example, white Mainline Protestants were the religious group most opposed (50%) to Proposition 8, which repealed the same-sex marriage law in California, and were more than four times as likely to oppose Proposition 8 as white evangelical Protestants (12%) (Public Policy Institute of California 2008). At the national level, only 26% of white Mainline Protestants oppose relationship recognition of any kind for gay and lesbian people, compared to more than 58% of white evangelicals (Public Religion Research, on behalf of Faith in Public Life, 2008) .
Moreover, recent polling indicates that in addition to Mainline Protestant people in the pews, Mainline Protestant clergy are largely supportive of gay and lesbian equality. The recently-released Clergy Voices Survey showed that nearly 8-in-10 (79%) Mainline clergy agree that gay and lesbian Americans should have “all the same rights and privileges as other American citizens,” up from 70% in 2001. And large majorities of Mainline Protestant clergy support workplace protections, hate crimes legislation, and adoption rights for gay and lesbian people (Public Religion Research 2009).
The Importance of Religious Liberty Reassurances
The legalization of same-sex marriage in New Hampshire also highlights a second major way religion plays a role in these debates: the relationship between religious liberty and marriage equality. Governor Lynch had threatened to veto the bill if it did not include language specifying that churches and religious groups would not be forced to conduct same-sex marriages or offer other services. While these religious liberty rights are already well-established in constitutional law, recent polling among Americans–particularly religious Americans–demonstrates a clear increase in support for marriage equality when laws include what we might call a “religious liberty reassurance.”
Read the rest of the article at Newsweek/Washington Post here.