More than 70% of US adults oppose using religious beliefs as a reason to discriminate against LGBTQ people

Large majorities of U.S. adults oppose denying medical care, employment, and business services to LGBTQ people based on religious beliefs, according to a new report from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law and NORC at the University of Chicago. The findings highlight sharp differences between public sentiment and a growing number of state legislatures that are limiting protections for LGBTQ Americans.

More than 8 in 10 respondents (84%) opposed allowing medical professionals to deny health care to an LGBTQ person based on their religious beliefs. Nearly three-quarters of respondents opposed allowing employers to deny employment to LGTBQ individuals (74%) and allowing businesses to refuse to serve LGBTQ people (71%) based on religious beliefs.

Majorities of respondents across genders, racial and ethnic identities, religions, and political affiliations objected to discrimination against LGBTQ people based on religious beliefs. Women, people of color, and Democrats were most likely to object to discrimination based on religious beliefs.

“Recent efforts by some state legislatures to expand religious exemptions from LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination laws are largely out of alignment with the views of most Americans,” said study author Christy Mallory, Legal Director at the Williams Institute. “More than three in four Americans now favor civil rights laws protecting LGBTQ people against religiously motivated discrimination.”

Notably, a large percentage of religious adults opposed discrimination based on religious beliefs: 59% of people who frequently attended religious services opposed denying employment to LGBTQ people based on religious beliefs. A large majority of all religiously affiliated respondents opposed denying services, medical care, and employment to LGBTQ people, including about two-thirds of individuals who identify as Catholic or Protestant/Christian.

“Our data shows that the majority of U.S. adults oppose discrimination against LGBTQ individuals,” said Michelle Johns, Senior Research Scientist at NORC at the University of Chicago. “And importantly, this opposition is consistent across political, religious, and racial and ethnic lines.”

The findings reflect similar trends in public opinion on LGBTQ civil rights, such as the dramatic shift in support for marriage equality, which has risen from 30% to over 70% in the past 20 years.

The survey was conducted and funded by NORC at the University of Chicago in partnership with the Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles. Interviews for this survey were conducted between Sept. 9-12, 2022, with U.S. adults aged 18 and over across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Panel members were randomly drawn from AmeriSpeak® for a total of 1,003 interviews. The overall margin of sampling error is +/- 4.0 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level, including the design effect.

Read the report

June 15, 2023

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