Public Divided Over Religiously Based Service Refusals

Public Divided Over Religiously Based Service Refusals

Shortly after the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruling was issued by the Supreme Court in June, Americans report being conflicted over whether small businesses providing wedding services should be able to refuse gay and lesbian customers. Close to half (46%) of Americans believe that the owners of wedding-based businesses, such as caterers, florists, and bakers, should be allowed to refuse to serve same-sex couples if doing so violates their religious beliefs, while about as many (48%) say these types of businesses should be required to serve same-sex couples. One year earlier, a majority (53%) of the public said wedding-based businesses should be required to serve gay and lesbian couples, while only about four in ten (41%) said they should not.

Not all Americans are equally likely to have shifted their views. Close to half (45%) of black Americans now say wedding-based businesses should be allowed to refuse service to gay and lesbian couples, a significant change from 2017 when 36% expressed this view. Hispanic Americans are also more likely to support religious refusals for wedding businesses today than they were one year ago (34% vs. 26%). Currently, about half of white Americans (49%) say the owners of wedding-based businesses should be allowed to refuse service to gay and lesbian couples; the views of white Americans have remained largely consistent since 2017.

A shift of opinion is also more pronounced among Republicans than Democrats. Today, nearly three-quarters (73%) of Republicans say wedding vendors should be permitted to refuse services to gay and lesbian couples if doing so would violate their religious beliefs, while 67% embraced this view in 2017. Democrats are about as likely to express support for this policy currently as they were last year (27% vs. 24%).

Among major religious groups, white evangelical Protestants express the strongest support for allowing wedding businesses to refuse services. Seven in ten (70%) white evangelical Protestants say wedding businesses, such as caterers, florists, and bakers, should be allowed to refuse to provide goods or services to gay and lesbian couples. White mainline Protestants (48% vs. 45%) and black Protestants (49% vs. 44%) are about as likely to support this policy as they are to oppose it. Nearly six in ten Catholics (58%) and religiously unaffiliated Americans (58%) say these types of businesses should not be allowed to refuse services to gay and lesbian couples.

Men are generally more likely than women to say owners of wedding-based businesses should be allowed to refuse to serve gay and lesbian couples. A majority (52%) of men, compared to 40% of women, believe the owners of wedding-based businesses, such as caterers, florists, and bakers, should be allowed to refuse service to gay and lesbian couples. A similar division was evident in 2017 when close to half (48%) of men, and about one-third (35%) of women, supported this allowance.

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