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Survey: most favor civil unions--moral stance on homosexuality major influence on decision

by Peter Menkin  
11/01/2009 / Church Life

In a newsworthy survey titled, "Majority Continues To Support Civil Unions: Most Still Oppose Same-Sex Marriage," the Pew Report offers a telling look at the changing attitude in America for Civil Unions.

The study of considerable scope and depth says in one part:

An August 2009 Pew Research Center survey finds that 53% oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, compared with 39% who support same-sex marriage, numbers that are virtually unchanged over the past year.

In the October 9, 2009 Pew Survey from The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, this shorter article will speak at the end of the article on the survey's question regarding Homosexuality and Morality. Other sections discussed first are: Same Section Marriage Issue Continues to Divide; Advocates Split on Strategy; Most Favor Civil Unions; Homosexuality and Morality; Moral Views Underpin Policy Decisions; Discrimination Against Gays and Lesbians; and, About the Survey.

A PDF of the full report can be found here. The full report runs 16 pages.

The survey says that people in organized religion generally oppose same-marriage, and a significant number of the secular segment of the population supports it. As can be guessed by most people who follow the story in newspapers, the religious objection based on the various moral communities of which this segment is a part frown on the homosexual union being sanctified in marriage, either civil or religious.

This reporter, talking to a United Church of Christ minister who believes in access by the homosexual community to the various privileges and practices of his individual congregation in California, says it has taken his congregation ten years of debate and differences to come to this point of view. Apparently, they allow Gay Marriage & Same Sex Blessings. It has only been in the last year of the congregation's life within their moral community that a change in acceptance has taken place.

An interview with the United Church of Christ minister will appear on these pages in a month or so, where the minister will respond to an in depth interview on the subject of 1,300 words of questions. A prominent Rabbi will also answer an in depth interview on the same subject of Gay Marriage & Same Sex Blessings (more than 800 words of questions), as will an Episcopal Bishop in San Francisco (1,000 plus words of questions). These are lengthy interview-articles, with a total of five interview-articles in the series.

The Pew Study notes these numbers regarding Protestants, and Catholics:

More than three-quarters of white evangelical Protestants (77%) and two-thirds of black Protestants (66%) oppose same-sex marriage, as do half of white mainline Protestants (50%). Catholics are evenly divided on the issue, with 45% favoring same-sex marriage and 43% opposing it. Most of those unaffiliated with any particular religion support same-sex marriage (60%).

Gays and lesbians are considering a change in tactics and strategy when it comes to the kind of push they will carry out in their campaign for the change. The survey notes in its summary: There has been a slight decline since 2006 in the number of same-sex marriage supporters favoring a hard push to legalize same-sex marriage right away (from 51% to 45% in 2009).

Though the change is smaller than many thought, judging by the tone of newspaper reports recently, and in light of the recent demonstrations in Washington, D.C. that urge more push and action, the numbers demonstrate enough difference to note here for this report.

Among those who oppose same-sex marriage, three-in-ten (30%) say they would support civil unions. A majority of same-sex marriage opponents, however, still oppose civil unions (66%). Among those who favor same-sex marriage, nearly all (94%) favor civil unions.

Most notable is the difference in attitude and belief, in support, by different age groups. Those under 30 support civil unions by two-thirds:

Two-thirds of those under age 30 (68%) support civil unions, the highest level of support among any age group. College graduates are also much more supportive of civil unions (70%) than are those with a high school education or less (47%).

To where this article began, regarding the part of the survey revealing that homosexuality and morality is a more important factor in the area of support for gay and lesbian marriage and civil unions than any other factor, so this writer interprets:

Nearly half of the public (49%) says homosexual behavior is morally wrong, while 9% say it is morally acceptable and 35% say it is not a moral issue. A similar number says abortion is morally wrong (52%), while far fewer see moral impropriety in divorce (29%) or drinking alcohol (15%).

No doubt civil unions for gays and lesbians are gaining support. The survey synopsis notes in brevity:
There is little doubt that Blacks find homosexuality morally wrong, more than whites, more than Hispanics. By age, it is the under 30 group that finds homosexuality okay (At least half of those ages 30 and older say homosexuality is wrong, compared with fewer than four-in-ten (38%) among those under age 30.)

Church attendance makes a difference in the view of whether homosexuality is morally wrong. Those who attend more frequently, of various denominations, find it wrong more than those who don't attend as frequently. But still those attending less frequently find it wrong (43% of Protestants). In its discussion of the Moral Underpinnings of policy decisions, the report offers in writing this analysis:

Only 11% of those who say homosexual behavior is morally wrong favor same-sex marriage, compared with 70% of those who have no moral objection to homosexual behavior. Likewise, only a third who believe homosexual behavior is wrong favor civil unions, compared with more than eight-in-ten (82%) of those who say homosexual behavior is morally acceptable or is not a moral issue.

Conducted by telephone interviews, the Pew Forum report was done by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. A little more than 4000 people were polled. All were 18 years of age or older. The survey was done under these understandings, as stated by the Pew Forum in their synopsis:

This survey is a joint effort of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Both organizations are sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts and are projects of the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan "fact tank" that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.

--Peter Menkin, Mill Valley, CA USA

Peter Menkin, an aspiring poet, lives in Mill Valley, CA USA where he writes poetry. He is an Oblate of Immaculate Heart Hermitage, Big Sur, CA and that means he is a Camaldoli Benedictine. He is 64 years of age as of 2010.

Copyright Peter Menkin

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