RELIGION
08/03/2018 05:51 pm ET

More People Now Support Allowing Businesses To Refuse LGBTQ Customers: Survey

Americans are conflicted over whether Christians like Colorado baker Jack Phillips should have the right to refuse service to queer customers.
Charlie Craig (left) and Dave Mullins (right), the gay couple who were denied having their wedding cake baked by cake artist
Alex Wong via Getty Images
Charlie Craig (left) and Dave Mullins (right), the gay couple who were denied having their wedding cake baked by cake artist Jack Phillips, look at each other during an interview in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 5, 2017.

In handing a narrow victory to a Christian baker who refused to make cakes for a gay wedding, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to punt a bigger question down the road: whether Americans can use religion to justify discrimination against LGBTQ people.

A new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute suggests that for many Americans, the jury is also still out on this issue.

PRRI completed the survey shortly after the Supreme Court’s June decision on Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. It found that Americans were conflicted over whether Christians with conservative religious beliefs, like Colorado baker Jack Phillips, should have the right to refuse service to queer customers.

The survey of 2,008 adults between June 27 and July 8, 2018, showed evidence of an America still divided over how to treat LGBTQ citizens.

Baker Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, accepts congratulations and thanks in his Colorado shop after the U.S. Su
Joe Amon via Getty Images
Baker Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, accepts congratulations and thanks in his Colorado shop after the U.S. Supreme Court voted 7-2 in his favor.

Nearly half of Americans surveyed (46 percent) said that owners of wedding-based businesses, such as caterers, florists and bakers, should be allowed to refuse to serve same-sex couples if doing so violates their religious beliefs. Roughly the same number (48 percent) disagreed, saying that these types of businesses should be required to serve queer couples.   

That’s a slight shift from how Americans felt about the issue last year, PRRI reports. In 2017, only 41 percent of Americans said wedding-based businesses should be allowed to refuse service to LGBTQ people, while a majority of Americans (53 percent) said these businesses should be required to serve gay and lesbian couples.

George Hefner, of Roxborough Village, became emotional after buying a cake with the inscription "God Bless America and Master
Joe Amon via Getty Images
George Hefner, of Roxborough Village, became emotional after buying a cake with the inscription "God Bless America and Masterpiece Cakeshop," from baker Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop. "He fought hard for us and our religious freedom," Hefner said.

The shift was more pronounced among black and Hispanic Americans, researchers found. Black Americans’ support for conservative business owners like Phillips rose from 36 percent in 2017 to 45 percent this year, while Hispanic Americans’ support rose from 26 percent to 34 percent. 

However, outside of the context of weddings, black Americans were more likely to side with the queer couples. Sixty-three percent said that small businesses should generally be required to serve gay and lesbian people.

Among religious groups, white evangelical Protestants remained the strongest supporters of allowing wedding businesses (70 percent) and small businesses in general (61 percent) to discriminate against gay and lesbian customers.

Demonstrators hold signs in support of Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, De
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Demonstrators hold signs in support of Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. 

At the same time, researchers found increased support for same-sex marriage. About 64 percent of Americans supported same-sex marriage, up from 55 percent in June 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges. 

Americans also showed stable support for laws that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people against discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. 

“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,” Robert P. Jones, PRRI’s CEO, said in a statement. “Given the court’s narrow decision in the case involving the Colorado baker, the Supreme Court will likely have another say on this and other related issues, and Judge Kavanaugh, if confirmed, could end up being the deciding vote.”

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