Americans who have gay or lesbian friends are twice as likely to say gay marriage should be legal as those who have none.
And more than half of Americans, meanwhile, say homosexuality is not sinful.
Such survey results place evangelicals increasingly in a minority position in American culture over same-sex relationships.
Nashville-based Lifeway Research, in a phone survey of 2,000 Americans on gay marriage, reported that friendship and faith play an influential role in how Americans view the issue.
“When it comes to support for gay marriage, a lot of it depends” on who one’s friends are, said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research. “Those who have gay or lesbian friends are the most open to gay marriage.”
Regardless of friends, Stetzer said, evangelicals are more likely to consider homosexual behavior sinful.
Currently 37 states allow gay marriage — though ceremonies are on hold in some places, pending appeals. Later this month the Supreme Court will hear arguments that could make same-sex marriage legal nationwide.
Half (50 percent) of Americans agree with the statement, “I believe gay marriage should be legal.” For Americans who have gay or lesbian friends, that number jumps to 6 in 10 (60 percent). Among Americans with no gay or lesbian friends, only a third say gay marriage should be legal.
Among faith groups, Catholics (56 percent) agree more than Protestants (40 percent) that it should be legal but less than the non-religious (73 percent).
Evangelicals, defined as those who identify themselves as a born again, evangelical or fundamentalist Christian, are least likely to support gay marriage. Less than a third (30 percent) say gay marriage should be legal, compared to 38 percent of evangelicals with gay or lesbian friends who say gay marriage should be legal.
“Culture is dramatically shifting on the issue,” Stetzer said.
The study confirmed that Americans have become polarized over the question of gay marriage. A third (36 percent) strongly agree gay marriage should be legal. A third (35 percent) strongly disagree. Few (6 percent) are unsure.
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SOURCE: Baptist Press