Book chapter

Public Opinion and Religion: Gay Rights in the United States (2019)

in: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics

Abstract

Religion plays an important role in structuring civil rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people (GLBT). Religious proscriptions against homosexuality were almost universally codified into law until the late 20th century, and laws against homosexuality and denying civil rights to homosexual remain in place in most nation states. The advent of the civil rights movement for GLBT persons has generated considerable backlash both in nations where civil rights have been secured, as well as in nations where many political leaders and movements view the extension of civil rights to GLBT persons as an external cultural threat. Religious opposition to the extension of rights has swiftly followed GLBT activism seeking: (a) an end to legal proscriptions; (b) alleviation of harassment and discrimination; (c) marriage and family recognition; (d) action related to the HIV/AIDS epidemic; and (e) recognition of transgendered identity and transgendered rights. GLBT movements quickly achieved considerable success and even garnered support from religious liberals. Data from the General Social Surveys (GSS) in the United States show that while support for same-sex marriage has increased in the U.S., significant differences remain across religious groups. Specifically, sectarian Protestants are significantly less supportive of civil rights for GLBT persons, while the non-religious are most supportive. While GLBT persons are making substantial political gains throughout the world, in many places backlash is eroding civil rights, and in much of the world the movement has lacked success. Several liberal religious groups have been crucial for the international success of human rights campaigns for GLBT persons, however conservative religious groups from several religious traditions have successfully promoted the continued repression of GLBT persons and movements.