Californians of Faith Moving to Support Marriage Equality
By Andrea D. Shorter
Last Wednesday I had the pleasure of attending a press conference held by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) in Los Angeles. Along with clergy, coalition partners and allies including California Faith for Equality, the National Black Justice Coalition and the California Lesbian Project, we welcomed the release of the PRRI's report on their findings of the largest survey on religion and same marriage in California to date, Religion and Same-Sex Marriage in California: A New Look at Attitudes and Values Two Years After Proposition 8.
PRRI is a non-profit, nonpartisan, independent organization based in Washington, D.C. and specializing in work at the intersection of religion, values and public life. The press conference panelists included PRRI founder and CEO, Robert P. Jones, Ph.D.; Daniel Cox, Director of Research, PRRI; Reverend Madison Shockley, Pastor, Pilgrim United Church of Christ (Carlsbad, Calif.); and Diane Winston, Ph.D., Knight Chair in Media and Religion, Annenberg School for Communications at the University of Southern California.
The bilingual (Spanish and English) poll was conducted by PRRI and funded by the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund with additional support provided by the Ford Foundation. Over a two-week period at the end of June, PRRI surveyed 2,801 Californians and took additional oversamples of African Americans and Latino Protestants to allow for in-depth analysis of these groups.
The report findings are encouraging, denoting a progressive shift among various Californians of faith in support for marriage equality:
• The poll reveals that most Californians think that Proposition 8 was a bad thing, with only 1 in 5 believing that it was a good thing.
• If the vote on marriage equality were held today, 51 percent of Californian's would vote in favor of it.
These and other findings affirm EQCA's coalition strategies with California Faith for Equality, clergy and other outreach workers around the state to reach out to persons of mainline Catholic and Protestant faiths. As conversations progress about marriage equality, it is clear that upon further contemplation of the injustices of Proposition 8, people of faith want to be fair and adhere to the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
Uplifting Freedom of Religion, Freedom to Civil Marriage
EQCA's co-sponsorship of the Civil Marriage Religious Freedom Act, or SB 906, introduced in Sacramento by State Senator Mark Leno is proving to bolster the effort to move Californians. We are working day to day to have face-to-face conversations with Californians in demographically and geographically diverse communities across the state via our 10 regional offices.
Among the people we are reaching, the growing knowledge that SB 906 would further clarify and codify the constitutional guarantee of separation of church and state that churches will not be penalized in any way should they not perform marriages for same-sex couples due to their beliefs provides greater assurance -- and relief -- to those who want to do the right thing in supporting civil marriage rights for all, while abiding by the described tenants of their faith doctrines.
In the PRRI poll, a significant number of Californians who initially say they support civil unions but not marriage for same-sex couples say they would support marriage if the law addressed either of two basic concerns about religious marriages:
• With a religious liberty reassurance that the law would guarantee that no congregation would be forced to conduct marriages for same-sex couples against its beliefs, support for these marriages increases 12 points, from initial support of 42 percent to a solid majority at 54 percent.
• With a civil marriage reassurance that the law would only provide for "civil marriages like you get at city hall," support increases 19 points, from 42 percent to about six in 10 (61 percent).
As reported in the Los Angeles Times, the survey "highlighted shifting attitudes among blacks, divisions among Latinos and the strong influence of clergy on their congregations' views on (LGBT) rights. Results showed that Latinos, at 30 percent, were more likely than white Californians, at 22 percent, to report becoming more supportive of (LGBT) rights. African Americans, meanwhile, resembled Californians in general, with 26 percent saying they had become more supportive, compared with 11 percent who had become more opposed."
While much has been reported about the differences of attitudes towards marriage equality among races, the fact remains that faith was the primary indicator of how people voted on Proposition 8. Our work now remains all the more vital to changing hearts and minds, and to restoring marriage equality for all in California.
Keep the Conversations Going
The fact that more Californians are moving to support marriage equality is also a testament to the power of conversations. Conversations with family members, neighbors and fellow congregants about why marriage equality is important to you is the most dynamic tool to change hearts and minds.
Andrea D. Shorter is Deputy Director, Marriage and Coalitions for Equality California. EQCA works to achieve equality and secure legal protections for LGBT people.