A new study by the Pew Research Center released on April 12th indicates that Americans are becoming less Christian and more secular. According to the study, Christianity is still the biggest faith in America, (with about 70% of Americans calling themselves Christian), but the percentage of adults who describe themselves as Christian has dropped “by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years,” and “Over the same period, the percentage of Americans...describing themselves as atheist, agnostic, or ‘nothing in particular’ has jumped more than six points.”
The study also found that “While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among Americans of all ages. The same trends are seen among whites, blacks and Latinos; among both college graduates and adults with only a high school education; and among women as well as men.”
On the surface, this seems promising for the future of marriage equality. The majority of opposition to same-sex marriage comes from religious groups, and some of the things some religious folks have to say about marriage equality have been decidedly horrifying. Lots of churches are also freaking out about all the money they’ll lose if they’re forced to recognize same-sex marriage or lose their tax exempt status.
Religion and marriage equality aren’t fundamentally at odds, though. A poll by the Public Religion Research Institute released in April found that 77% of Jewish Americans, 60% of Catholics, and 62% of white mainline Protestants support marriage equality.
Here are nine examples of Christian and non-Christian religious institutions and groups in the U.S. that believe all love is equal:
The Presbyterian Church (USA)
With 1.7 million members, The Presbyterian Church (USA) is the largest Presbyterian group in the country. In March, church officials decided in an historic vote that the church would both recognize same-sex marriage and allow same-sex weddings.
“As a church, the Presbyterian Church (USA) has received much grace from God and Jesus Christ,” said Gradye Parsons, clerk of the church’s general assembly, in the church’s video about the decision. “We should extend that grace to each other in all gentleness as we live into this common chapter of our life.”
Mormon “Mama Dragons”
Until very recently, the Mormon church still encouraged the practice of “conversion therapy.” That practice is no longer encouraged, but the church still fundamentally views homosexuality as a sin. In its official statement on homosexuality, the Mormon church says, “The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them.”
Despite the church’s official stance, a group of Mormon moms have banded together to support their gay kids just as they are. According to a recent article on Yahoo Parenting, the “Mama Dragons” are a Facebook support group “devoted to the acceptance of LGBT teens and adult children” that also hopes to “nudge the church to a more modern and welcoming stance toward gay people.”
The Reform and Conservative Jewish Movements
According to ReformJudaism.org, “In addition to several congregations whose primary outreach is to the LGBT community, LGBT Jews and their families are welcome in all of Reform temples. LGBT Jews may be ordained as rabbis and cantors and they serve throughout the Reform movement. Most Reform rabbis and cantors gladly officiate at same-sex ceremonies.”
The Conservative Jewish movement takes a similar stance, and in 2012 instituted rituals for same-sex wedding ceremonies.
United Church of Christ
According to UCC.org, “On July 4, 2005, at the 25th General Synod of the United Church of Christ in Atlanta, delegates voted to adopt the resolution, 'Equal Marriage Rights for All.'” Among the items in that resolution: “The United Church of Christ affirms equal marriage rights for couples regardless of gender and declares that the government should not interfere with couples regardless of gender who choose to marry and share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities and commitment of legally recognized marriage”
Muslims for Marriage Equality
According to Human Rights Campaign, “Because Islam has no central governing body...Islamic individuals and institutions fall on a wide spectrum, from welcoming and inclusive to a level of rejection that can be marked by...violence.” In the U.S., “There is a growing movement to create inclusive communities for LGBT Muslims and their allies.” Though a traditional reading of the Qur’an has been used to oppress LGBT people for centuries, same sex weddings are performed at inclusive mosques across the country. A poll conducted in April suggested that 42% of Muslims support marriage equality.
According to HRC again, “One of the nation’s most prominent Muslim Americans, United States Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) states unequivocally, ‘I believe in expanding marriage rights and responsibilities to same-sex couples and to have those marriages recognized by other states and the federal government.’”
Quakers (Society of Friends)
According to The Guardian, though it was 2009 before Quakers formally stated marriage equality, the Quaker church has been explicitly accepting of homosexuality since 1963. The book "Towards a Quaker View of Sex" included the statement, "Surely it is the nature and quality of a relationship that matters: one must not judge it by its outward appearance but by its inner worth. Homosexual affection can be as selfless as heterosexual affection, and therefore we cannot see that it is in some way morally worse."
The Guardian article also states that "Towards a Quaker View of Sex" was a “pioneering and, at the time, hugely controversial book from the religious society, which provided perhaps the very first faith-based affirmation of gay equality and went on to be hugely influential, selling 500,000 copies.” At the time of the book’s release, homosexuality was still illegal in most states (Actually, just in case we’ve forgotten, it's worth noting that numerous states still have anti-gay laws on the books).
Evangelical Lutheran Church
According to Human Rights Campaign (HRC), in 1991 the church passed a resolution stating that "Gay and lesbian people, as individuals created by God, are welcome to participate fully in the life of the congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America," and although the church hasn’t come to any formal agreement on marriage equality, “the ongoing debate has prompted a policy that gives autonomy to individual ministers and their congregations, resulting in the celebration of same-sex marriages at many ELCA churches across the country.”
According to the Unitarian Universalist Association’s website, “Since 1973, when the Office of Gay Affairs (now Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Ministries) was established, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) has made an institutional commitment to full equality for bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender, and queer-identified people.” The UUA has been long been actively involved in advocating for marriage equality. Their website also states, “Love has no boundaries and Unitarian Universalists will not rest until legal barriers are removed and protections are in place to assure LGBTQ people have the same rights to the pursuit of happiness as everyone else.”
Catholics for Marriage Equality
The Roman Catholic Church is officially opposed to same-sex marriage, and even Pope Francis has said that same-sex marriage threatens “the very institution of marriage.” That hasn’t stopped LGBT Catholics and Catholic marriage equality supporters from creating a Facebook support group, a documentary film, and a maintaining a long list of gay-friendly parishes. A worldwide poll of Catholics conducted last year indicated that despite the Vatican’s stance, 66% of Catholics support marriage equality.