By Bob Smietana
When a gay couple asked Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to bake them a cake to celebrate their wedding, he refused.
Things might have gone differently, however, if the baker had been named Jill.
Less than half of women (40 percent) say a wedding-based business should be able to turn down a same-sex couple based on religious objections, according to a new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute. That figure jumps to 52 percent of men.
In almost every religious category, women were less likely to say that a wedding business should be able to turn down same-sex couples if they have a religious objection.
- Among white evangelicals: 74 percent of men, 68 percent of women agree.
- Among white Mainline Protestants: 64 percent of men, 32 percent of women agree.
- Among Catholics: 50 percent of men, 35 percent of women agree.
- Among Nones (those with no religious affiliation): 40 percent of men, 31 percent of women agree.
Overall, about half of Americans (46 percent) agree wedding businesses like Masterpiece Cakeshop should be able to turn down a same-sex couple if the business owner’s faith objects to same-sex weddings. Half (48 percent) disagree.
That’s a shift from a similar poll last year, when a majority of Americans (53 percent) said those businesses should be required to serve gay and lesbian couples. Then only 41 percent said wedding-based businesses should be able to turn down same-sex customers.
The views of white Americans remain largely unchanged since 2017, but support for businesses’ right to refuse service grew among African Americans (36 to 45 percent) and Hispanic Americans (26 to 34 percent).
White evangelicals (70 percent) are the religious group most likely to say wedding businesses should be able to decline same-sex couples.
Other religious groups were more closely divided. Mainline Protestants (48 percent say the businesses can refuse, 45 percent disagree) and black Protestants (49 percent versus 44 percent) are split.
Catholics (58 percent) and the Nones (58 percent)—those who claim no religious identity—are most likely to say businesses should not be able to refuse.
The survey found in general that support for same-sex marriage and gay rights are growing among Americans. But there is room for those who object on religious grounds.
“While support for same-sex marriage and broad rights for LGBT people continue to increase, opinions are less settled in specific areas such as religiously-based service refusals, especially in the context of wedding service providers,” said Robert Jones, CEO of PRRI.
The PRRI study’s findings mirror those of Pew Research, which found a similar split on the issue of refusing to participate in same-sex weddings.
A Reuters poll from earlier this summer found two-thirds Americans say businesses should not be able to discriminate against customers based on their sexual orientation.
Majority supports same-sex marriage
According to PRRI, 6 in 10 Americans (62 percent) say they support the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage, while 28 percent say it should be overturned. Ten percent don’t have an opinion.
Young adults overwhelmingly back the decision and say it should be upheld (81 percent), while only half of seniors (52 percent) agree.
Only about a third of white evangelicals (34 percent) support the court’s decision to allow same-sex marriage. Half (52 percent) want to see it overturned. By contrast, significant majorities of white mainline Protestant (75 percent), Catholics (66 percent), and Nones (81 percent) support the decision.
The legal battle over religion and same-sex weddings seems far from over. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a lower court to review the case of Barronelle Stutzman—a Washington State florist accused of discrimination after refusing to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding.
The U.S. Supreme Court sent her case back to a Washington State court for “further consideration” following the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision.
In the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision, the court also ruled pastors are not required to perform same-sex weddings.
“When it comes to weddings, it can be assumed that a member of the clergy who objects to gay marriage on moral and religious grounds could not be compelled to perform the ceremony without denial of his or her right to the free exercise of religion,” the court said in its ruling.
Despite the Supreme Court decision in his favor, Phillips is still out of the custom wedding cake business.
“Masterpiece Cakeshop is not currently accepting requests to create custom wedding cakes. Please check back in the future,” reads a message on his shop’s website.
BOB SMIETANA (@BobSmietana) is senior writer for Facts & Trends.