American Catholics support marriage equality 60-31 percent, higher than the level of support among all U.S. adults (56-36 percent). Last month, in a wide-ranging interview released in a publication of the Jesuit order, Pope Francis expanded dramatically on his earlier comments that “if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge”—making clear that he intended that tolerant message to apply to all lesbian and gay people, not just priests and members of the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy.
“It is a new day in the Catholic Church and the LGBT community is a part of it,” said Dr. Sharon Groves, director of the HRC Religion and Faith Program. “For years, the Church hierarchy has refused to treat LGBT people with even the smallest shred of dignity. Pope Francis has changed the conversation in a direction lay Catholics have been moving for years.”
Last Friday’s poll found devout Catholics who attend religious services about once a week, support marriage for lesbian and gay couples at 53 – 40 percent, while less observant Catholics support it at 65 – 26 percent. Catholic women support marriage equality at 72 – 22 percent, while Catholic men support it at 49 – 40 percent. Support ranges from 46 – 37 percent among Catholics over 65 years old to 64 – 27 percent among Catholics 18 to 49 years old. American Catholics also support the ordination of women priests.
“Pope Francis has laid a new course for the Catholic Church and we are hopeful that course will no longer be rife with bias and bigotry,” added Groves. “The Catholic people are standing with him and we call on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to follow his lead and focus on helping the poor and seek social justice. It is time for transformative change.”
The vast majority of lay Catholics in the United States support LGBT equality. A recent poll from New York Times/CBS News found that more than six in ten American Catholics support equal marriage, compared to 53 percent of the country as a whole. Despite this broad support among the laity, last year the Church hierarchy was one of the biggest investors in anti-LGBT campaigns in the United States—spending nearly $2 million in the failed attempts to write discrimination into the Minnesota constitution and stem marriage equality in Maine, Maryland, and Washington.
Since his ascendance earlier this year, Pope Francis has made headlines with his tolerant and heartfelt proclamations—on issues ranging from LGBT equality, to gender equality, to a dedication to serving the poor.