A new poll from the First Amendment Center finds that a majority of Americans do not see an inherent conflict between recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples and “religious freedom.”
Of the 1,006 respondents, 66 percent agreed that corporations should have certain religious freedoms; however, these freedoms did not extend to discriminating against same-sex couples. When it comes to whether a business that provides wedding services should be required to serve same-sex couples even if the owners have religious objections, 61 percent agree that the requirement is fair. The First Amendment Center points out that this result is consistent with the previous year’s survey.
Additionally, 54 percent agree that any religiously affiliated group that receives government funding should be required to provide healthcare benefits to the same-sex partners of its employees, even if the religious group has religious objections to same-sex marriage or homosexuality itself. These numbers jibe with mainstream polls on marriage equality, which have found nation-wide support crawling as high as 59 percent.
“Religious liberty” or “religious freedom” has been one of the primary talking points utilized by conservatives lately to oppose marriage equality or nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people. Nearly a dozen state bills that attempted to legitimize religious-based discrimination against same-sex couples failed earlier this year — most notably in Arizona. One managed to pass in Mississippi. These were all bills that either cited “religious liberty” or specifically attempted to carve out special religious exemptions specifically for the purpose of discriminating against LGBT people.
The impending Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case — which is actually about employees’ access to birth control as part of their health care plans — could have severe implications on LGBT protections. If the Supreme Court essentially rules that businesses’ “religious freedom” entitles them to not comply with certain laws, it could allow them free reign to impose the kind of discrimination that a majority of Americans oppose.