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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM)


Reactions by the African American churches
and community concerning marriage equality

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Most polls on same-sex marriage (SSM) only deal with the overall national level of acceptance and opposition to marriage equality among either all adults or all voters. Starting about 2011, polls showed that a watershed had been reached: most American adults now favor expanding the eligibility to marriage by including loving, committed same-sex couples.

However, some polls go further and study the attitudes within groups of adults towards SSM -- groups defined by their age, political affiliation, race, educational attainment, family income, etc.

These more detailed polls show that three groups of adults are particularly opposed to SSM:

  • The elderly: Age is a major indicator of one's acceptance or rejection of same-sex marriage. Older teens and young adults strongly support SSM, while a significant majority of seniors are opposed.

    Many people's moral beliefs are established by their late teenage years or early adulthood and remain constant through their lifetime. Many of those currently over 60 years-of-age adopted their attitudes towards lesbians, gays, transgender individuals and transsexuals (LGBTs) back when homosexual orientation was considered a mental health disorder by professional associations of psychiatrists and psychologists. Also, at the time, essentially all Christian denominations had very negative views about the LGBT community. Many seniors are reluctant to change their beliefs and remain opposed to SSM.

  • Republicans: They tend to be conservative on social matters and very supportive of marriage. However, they tend to value only what are called "traditional marriages" -- those between one woman and one man. Many view the attempts by same-sex couples to be allowed to marry as a dangerous attack on -- rather than as a benefit to -- the institution of marriage. Thus, for example, the Republican party adopted a plank in their platform for the 2012 election which calls for Congress to try again to pass a Federal Marriage Amendment. This would be an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would define marriage in traditional terms, as a voluntary union of one man and one woman. If successful, such an amendment would place the legalization of same-sex marriages beyond the reach of Congress, state legislators, and the courts -- at least until the amendment was repealed.

  • African Americans: Support for SSM is increasing among American adults of all races, while opposition is decreasing. In the Black community, both factors are changing at an average rate of almost 1 percentage point a year. However, acceptance among African Americans lags that of Whites. Overall,in 2012, African Americans still oppose SSM by a margin of about 10 percentage points. At the current rate of change, a majority of African Americans are not expected to approve of SSM until about 2018.

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