Learnings from New Hampshire

Recently the State of New Hampshire legislature and governor agreed to include certain protections for religious leaders before they would both agree to enact a law recognizing same-sex marriage. Robert Jones and Daniel Cox have taken a close look at that decision to see what sorts of lessons can be drawn.

They write in part:

“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 For example, white Mainline Protestants were the religious group most opposed (50%) to Proposition 8, which repealed the same-sex marriage law in California, and were more than four times as likely to oppose Proposition 8 as white evangelical Protestants (12%) (Public Policy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).”

In looking at the compromise between the executive and legislative branch in New Hampshire, the authors write:

Currently, 29% of all Americans support same-sex marriage, another 28% support civil unions, and 37% favor no legal recognition of gay couples’ relationships. As the state-level correlations between Mainline Protestant adherence and support for marriage equality above suggest, both Mainline Protestant laity and Mainline Protestant clergy support same-sex marriage at slightly higher rates than the general population (34% and 33% respectively) (Public Religion Research for Faith in Public Life 2008).

When offered the kind of religious liberty reassurance contained in the New Hampshire law–a guarantee that no church would be required to perform marriage ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples–support for same-sex marriage increased by 14 points in the general population to 43%. Among Mainline Protestant clergy, support rose 13 points to 46%. And among Mainline Protestant laity, support increased 19 points to majority support (53%) for same-sex marriage (Public Religion Research for Faith in Public Life 2008).

Read the full article here in the Washington Post.

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