Eight in Ten Americans Oppose Allowing Small Business Owners to Refuse Service to Gays, Lesbians on Religious Grounds


The controversial “religious freedom” bill that Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed into law this week has garnered widespread criticism. The bill has the potential to allow small businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians if it conflicts with religious beliefs.


Nationwide, only 16 percent of Americans say that a small business owner in their state should be allowed to refuse products or services to individuals because they are gay or lesbian if it violates their religious beliefs, while 80 percent disagree. That survey also found few Americans saying small business owners should be allowed, based on their own personal religious beliefs, to refuse services to individuals because they are black, atheist, or Jewish.

PRRI’s large 2014 study, the LGBT Issues and Trends Survey, contained a large enough sample to compare Indiana residents to the rest of the country. Notably, Indiana residents were as likely as Americans overall to say that gay and lesbian people face a lot of discrimination in their community (69 percent vs. 68 percent respectively).


While Indiana residents are less likely than Americans overall to support same-sex marriage (47 percent vs. 54 percent), nearly two-thirds nonetheless favor job discrimination protections for gay and lesbian people. Sixty-five percent of Indiana residents favor laws that would protect gay and lesbian people from discrimination in the workplace, compared to 72 percent of all Americans.

One of the reasons for Indiana’s lower support for same-sex marriage, and gay rights generally, is that Indiana has a significantly higher percentage of white evangelical Protestants among residents compared to the country overall. Nearly three in ten (29 percent) Indiana residents are white evangelical Protestant—11 points higher than the national average.

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