Christian nationalist organizations have for decades used LGBTQ rights as the leading wedge of the culture wars. They did that because it worked. For a long time, fomenting anti-LGBTQ hysteria paid great dividends to these organizations that want their religious beliefs inserted into our country’s secular laws.
Those days are rapidly drawing to a close. A new report from Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) shows remarkably broad support for protecting LGBTQ Americans from discrimination. According to PRRI, 76% pf Americans “favor laws that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans from discrimination in jobs, housing, and public accommodation. Less than one in five Americans (19%) oppose nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Americans.”
PRRI added, “Majorities of nearly every subgroup of Americans favor LGBT nondiscrimination protections, across race, age, religious, and partisan lines.” The organization also found that “support for LGBT nondiscrimination protections since 2015 has largely come among Americans of color and white mainline Protestants.”
Of special interest to Americans United is the question of discrimination against LGBTQ people by the owners of businesses who raise religious objections. PRRI found that opposition to such forms of discrimination had been on the decline but is now inching upward.
“From 2016 to 2019, Americans’ opposition to allowing small businesses to refuse products or services to gay or lesbian people if doing so violates their religious beliefs declined, from 61% in 2016 to 56% in 2019,” reported PRRI. “This trend reversed itself in 2020, with 61% of Americans opposing such religiously based refusals, bringing opposition back up to 2016 levels. One-third of Americans (33%) favor allowing a small business to refuse service to gay and lesbian people if doing so violates their religious beliefs.”
At Americans United, where we work to ensure that religious freedom is used as a shield that protects instead of a sword that lashes out and causes harm, we wish those numbers were higher. But we’re heartened by the fact that support for LGBTQ rights across the board is moving in the right direction. Many Americans can doubtless remember when public support for marriage equality and protections for LGBTQ people in the workplace was anemic. We’ve come a long way in a relatively short time.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t more work to do. There is – a lot. Despite what Americans tell pollsters, many states still offer no protection to their LGBTQ residents. A federal LGBTQ rights law, the Equality Act, has passed the U.S. House of Representatives but hasn’t cleared the Senate. AU supports this bill and another piece of proposed legislation, the Do No Harm Act, which is pending in Congress.
Nor do poll results like this mean that Christian nationalists or their allies in government will let up. Having lost the fight over marriage equality, they’ve lately moved on to targeting the transgender community through a host of mean-spirited bills. And many fundamentalist pastors and well-heeled Christian nationalist groups are still spewing the same invective against LGBTQ people we’ve been hearing since the rise of the Religious Right in the late 1970s.
But for most Americans, the question of LGBTQ rights has been settled. Expect the Christian nationalists to continue carping. The rest of us are moving on.
Remember, Americans United works tirelessly to protect of the LGBTQ community and others by ensuring that religious freedom isn’t used to discriminate and cause harms. We’d love to have your support.