LifeWay Research on Gay Marriage and The Church

The results of a new LifeWay Research poll released this morning reveal some interesting attitudes among American adults when it comes to how pastors and church leaders handle the topic of same-sex marriage.

In November, LifeWay received 1,191 completed online surveys. Responses were weighted by region, age, ethnicity, gender, and education to represent the adult population of the United States, LifeWay said. Some specific highlights (you also can read the full recap from LifeWay and additional coverage from our sister site

  • 63 percent agree and 27 percent disagree that pastors should be allowed to refuse to officiate same-sex weddings if they are made legal in their state;
  • 58 percent agree and 33 percent disagree that photographers should be allowed to refuse to work same-sex weddings if they are made legal in their state;
  • 40 percent agree and 52 percent disagree that rental halls should be allowed to refuse to rent out their facilities for same-sex weddings if they are made legal in their state;
  • 14 percent agree and 82 percent disagree employers should be allowed to refuse employment to someone based on their sexual preference.

For Americans calling themselves "born-again, evangelical, or fundamentalist Christian," LifeWay said 74 percent agree that pastors should be able to refuse marrying a same-sex couple; 72 percent said photographers should be able to refuse providing services for a same-sex ceremony; and 57 percent said a rental hall should be able to refuse providing its facility for a same-sex ceremony or reception.

LifeWay's survey didn't define "rental hall," so it's unclear whether participants envisioned the use—or the denial of use—of church buildings as a part of their responses.

Richard Hammar has covered the topic of same-sex marriage for Church Law & Tax Report. After the California Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that a state law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman violated various sections of the state constitution, Hammar noted the following for pastors nationwide as it relates to their abilities to decide whether to marry (or not marry) a same-sex couple:

It is more likely that the civil courts would refuse to compel clergy to perform a fundamental religious ritual, such as marriage, in contravention of their sincerely held religious beliefs.

And then later:

Cases … strongly suggest that the civil courts are barred by the First Amendment religion clauses from compelling ministers to perform marriages in violation of their religious beliefs, or to subject them to civil or criminal liability for refusing to do so.

Hammar covers more specifics, including case law references, in What Clergy Should Know About Same-Sex Marriages Feature Report.

Hammar also goes into more detail about religious employers and discrimination against an employee or applicant for employment on the basis of moral teachings in Pastor, Church & Law, Volume 3: Employment Law.

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled this month to hear arguments on two gay-marriage cases: the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."

Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

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