LGBTQ Equality

Support for LGBTQ+ rights is declining in America. Christian Nationalists play a major role.

  Rob Boston

A new public opinion poll finds support for LGBTQ+ rights declining instead of increasing, and a relentless drumbeat of Christian Nationalist propaganda may be responsible.

The findings come from the 2023 American Values Survey conducted by Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). The group found that overall support for LGBTQ+ rights among Americans remains high but noted erosion in a few demographic groups, including, surprisingly, young people.

The PRRI survey found:

* Most Americans, 76%, say they support policies that protect LGBTQ+ Americans from discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodation. That figure was 80% in 2022. Support for these policies remained steady among Democrats but dropped seven points among Republicans; support for these policies dropped among many religious groups as well and among young adults. In 2020, 83% of Americans aged 18-29 supported nondiscrimination laws to protect LGBTQ+ people. That figure has declined to 75%.

* A majority of Americans (60%) oppose allowing small businesses to refuse to serve LGBTQ+ customers on the basis of the business owner’s religious beliefs. But that figure was 65% in 2022.

* Support for marriage equality now stands at 67%, a loss of two points since 2022. The PRRI survey found that among young adults, support for marriage equality dipped from 74% in 2022 to 71% in 2023. (It reached a high of 79% in 2018.)

A barrage of anti-LGBTQ+ messages

What’s causing this gradual erosion? Melissa Deckman, CEO of PRRI, told NBC News that a relentless barrage of anti-LGBTQ+ messages from ultra-conservative sources may be to blame.

“There’s been more of an emphasis on this idea that LGBTQ rights have gone too far in America,” Deckman said. “They’re hearing that in churches that are conservative, they’re seeing on social media that’s conservative, on far-right news sources that are conservative. And that message is resonating.”

The report also finds that the more a person identifies with Christian Nationalism, the more likely they are to reject LGBTQ+ rights. Among adherents of Christian Nationalism, a majority of 52% oppose nondiscrimination laws, and only 22% of them support marriage equality.  The report puts it starkly: “Across all 50 states, scatter plots show a clear pattern: support for Christian nationalism is negatively correlated with support for three policies discussed in this report.”

Christian Nationalism on the march

A new report from the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) that also was released this week shows not only how Christian Nationalism is linked to attacks on LGBTQ+ rights, but also to restrictions on reproductive freedom, the freedom of ideas, religious freedom (especially for religious minorities), the freedom to travel, freedom of speech and even the right to vote. The report, “Freedom Under Fire: The Far Right’s Battle to Control America,” cites AU’s research into the Shadow Network of organizations and political powerbrokers advancing this agenda.

The drop in support for LGBTQ+ rights coincides with dangerous anti-LGBTQ+ policies in several states. This ongoing assault is endangering lives. A recent analysis by The Washington Post found that hate crimes in schools have spiked, especially in states that have passed laws targeting the rights of LGBTQ+ students.

“The Post analysis found that the number of anti-LGBTQ+ school hate crimes serious enough to be reported to local police more than doubled nationwide between 2015-2019 and 2021-2022,” the newspaper reported. “The rise is steeper in the 28 states that have passed laws curbing the rights of transgender students at school and restricting how teachers can talk about issues of gender and sexuality.”

A tragic death in Oklahoma

All of these reports come as we mourn the death of Nex Benedict, a nonbinary, 16-year-old student from Oklahoma who died last month a day after they were beaten by students in a public school restroom following months of bullying. While Nex’s death still is being investigated (a medical examiner’s report released yesterday disclosed the cause of death as suicide), it’s clear that the virulent anti-LGBTQ+ comments and rhetoric of Oklahoma officials are creating a dangerous environment in the state’s public schools.

That’s why AU joined our allies in calling for the removal of Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters. Under his leadership, the Oklahoma Department of Education has fostered a culture that has led to marginalization, harassment, and discrimination against 2SLGBTQ+ individuals in public schools. More than 10,000 people have signed our petition urging the Oklahoma Legislature to oust Walters; please add your voice.

America celebrates the idea that you can live your life as you see fit, as long as you’re not harming others, and that no one should be forced to live under another’s religious dictates. Both of those principles are under attack by Christian Nationalists, and it’s the most vulnerable members of our society who are taking the hit.

Congress needs to hear from you!

Urge your legislators to co-sponsor the Do No Harm Act today.

The Do No Harm Act will help ensure that our laws are a shield to protect religious freedom and not used as a sword to harm others by undermining civil rights laws and denying access to health care.

Act Now