The day after I marveled at Catholics leading the way on same-sex marriage in the Washington Post-ABC News poll, the Public Religion Research Institute released a more comprehensive portrait of Catholic attitudes on gay and lesbian issues. Its findings were equally interesting.
Catholics are more supportive than the general public is on a number of gay and lesbian issues. Protection against workplace discrimination is favored by 73 percent of Catholics and 68 percent of the general public. Gays serving openly in the military got support from 63 percent of Catholics compared with 58 percent of the general public. And adoption by same-sex couples was given a nod by 60 percent of Catholics and 53 percent of the general public.
The obvious — and encouraging — fact is that gay and lesbian issues enjoy support from a majority of Americans. But there are two more significant data points from the PRRI report.
“A majority of Catholics (56%) believe that sexual relations between two adults of the same gender is not a sin. Among the general population, less than half (46%) believe it is not a sin (PRRI, Religion & Politics Tracking Survey, October 2010).
“Catholics overwhelmingly reject the idea that sexual orientation can be changed. Nearly 7-in-10 (69%) Catholics disagree that homosexual orientation can be changed; less than 1-in-4 (23%) believe that it can be changed.”
So, while the church’s hierarchy says that being gay is a sin or is something that can be changed, the church’s flock in the United States, 29 percent of which is Latino, dares to think otherwise. It’s polls such as these that fortify my faith that legal acceptance of and respect for gay men and lesbians and their families are not too far off.