Millennials Promise Brighter Future for Gay Rights


Millennials, those aged between 18-29, are much more accepting of LGBT rights when compared to those 65 and over, says the Millennials, Religion & Gay and Lesbian Issues Survey carried out by Public Religion Research that was released this week.

Among Millennials, more than 6 out of 10 (62%) favor allowing same-sex marriage, 69% favor same-sex couples jointly adopting children, 71% support civil unions and 79% back LGBT-inclusive employment nondiscrimination legislation.

This compared to seniors where only 1 in 3 say they favor same-sex marriage (31%). Seniors also reported lower support for same-sex parent adoption (31%).

However, while seniors also offered a lower level of support for civil unions when compared to their younger counterparts, a majority report they favor granting same-sex couples access to civil unions (51%), while 58% also say they support nondiscrimination legislation for LGBTs.

The survey was designed and conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and funded by the Arcus Foundation. Results of the survey were based on 3,000 bilingual (English and Spanish) telephone interviews, including 1,000 cell phone interviews, conducted between July 14 and July 30. The margin for error is +/- 2%  for the general sample and +/- 4.5% for the 18-29 year-old group at the 95% confidence level.

How support breaks down across the various demographics in this survey is also encouraging.

Around 49% of young self-identifying Republicans support allowing same-sex couples to marry. Only 19% of Republican seniors say they support such a move. That figure outstrips the general level of support among Republicans as a whole which stands at 31%.

Also of key interest may be that 44% of white evangelical Millennials also support same-sex marriage, compared to 12% of seniors, and far exceeding the general consensus among evangelicals which is at 19%.

Broadly speaking, other points of interest are that a majority (51%) of Americans now believe supporting same-sex marriage is the more socially acceptable position, and that most Americans accept LGBTs face difficulties in living life openly (51%).

Interestingly, 69% of Millennials say that religious groups are alienating younger adults by being too judgmental of gay and lesbian people. Over 6 in 10 Americans, including majorities across all major religious groups say that this unfriendly discourse from religious leaders is contributing to the high suicide rate among LGBT teens, either a lot (23%) or at least a little (44%).

So what can we take from this? The study’s authors think that it will mean 2011 will come to be a landmark where a tipping point on LGBT rights support was reached, especially among young conservatives. This seems reasonable given how well established the generational trend is when it comes to LGBT rights issues and also the acceleration that seems to have occurred over the previous couple of years.

However, I remain to be convinced on one of the more general points of discussion this survey has raised: that this spells an impending change among Republican legislators and conservative religious groups. Why? I would rather think that a gatekeeper effect will persist and slow — though not halt — change because, while Millennials may indeed be more accepting, it will be the established party and religious leaders who will be able to dictate the criteria for what makes a good candidate among the younger generation — as such, I would think they are likely to pick only those young people who share their views.

Public support for LGBT rights will perhaps necessitate a gradual weakening of this position until it becomes a non-issue, but the well observed disconnect between public opinion and political will might warn against an over reliance on the Millennials to bring about a change in the LGBT rights landscape in the short term.

That said, there is a great deal of positive news to take from this survey, especially as it seems to highlight the non-too distant prospect of a consensus regarding the need for LGBT equality.

To read the full report, click here.

To read the topline results, questionnaire and methodology, click here.

To read the press release, click here.

Related Reading:

Gay Solider on How Air Force Band Video Outed Him

Prop. 8 Tapes Case May Itself be Recorded

Ugandan MPs Vow to Pass ‘Kill the Gays’ Bill

Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to brainchildvn.


Emily Drew
Emily Drew6 years ago

Great news! I think same sex marriage will be legal in all states of America within my generation. Which will be awesome. And hopefully the whole world. Although it might take china and parts of africa and so on a few more generations to come around.....but we'll get there!

helen r.
helen r6 years ago

Each step forward is progress! I worked at the SF AIDS Foundation in the early 80's and made some very close LGBT friends. Before I knew them I didn't know the problems they faced in the world. Back then the only job prospect for a Trangender person was in the entertainment industry as singing telgram deliverers or drag shows and everybody else had to be quiet about their sexual preferances because they would get fired. I even knew a gay couple who where thrown out of their apt. when management found out they weren't just roommates. These 2 men had been together for 13 years! Believe me when I say things ARE better now but we aren't there yet. Keep moving forward and we will all be better people for it! Thank you for your informative article.

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Robert O.
Robert O6 years ago

As children are raised to be more tolerant and accepting, there will be more progress in terms of acceptance of others and securing equal rights for all. A concept lost on most people of the older generations and young people still being raised to hate that which is different from them.

Dianne Robertson
Dianne Robertson6 years ago

I'm so sorry to have fouled up my post --twice.But on my second try I left out three letters. When I asked her about adoption she answerwd "Men dont want to raise children" "MANY DO", I answered. But......
Please put all my stuff together and See what I INTENDED TO SAY. THANKS!

Dianne Robertson
Dianne Robertson6 years ago

"Many do. But how about two women?", I asked."Oh. well, I hadn't thought about that" she answered more slowly
Please give us a LOT of empathy inspiring information and a little time.It's not fair to cover our ears then call us Prejudiced!

Dianne Robertson
Dianne Robertson6 years ago

As a lady of 67, I'd like to suggest that HOW the question is asked influences the answer.Many older people have NO idea of the ramifications of denying MARRIAGE to the LGBT community. We also are often shielded from KNOWING the true sexualityof the people around us(It's the old "don't tell Grandma--she couldn't take it!") I have discussed with intrest my peers--and ELDERS feelings on the recent move by the Lutheran Church to accept Gay people in committed relationships into the ministry.I live in Northern Minnesota in a town of less than 5000people. IN an assisted living where I am the YOUNGEST resident)Many of my neighbors are lifelong Lutherans of mostly Finn background.The discussion split the local Church.Some people left their church rather than accept the possibility of being pastored by a Gay man.BUT many stayed saying they would need to MEET the PERSON! Many of these people HAVE gay family members whom they love and WOULD SUPPORT IF they KNEW. I have been discussing WHAT problems could be releaved by allowing Gay MARRIAGE. A Lady who has recently lost her husband --as have I-- was SHOCKED that visiting a gay spouse in the hospital could be denied since they AREN'T MARRIED.The fact that a deceased spouse's PARENTS --or BROTHERS could come even BEFORE the Funeral and collect their relatives PERSONAL BELONGINGS made my friend CRY. "That's just WRONG",She snuffled. AND ,I pushed on,the Catholic charities who specialize in adoption won't place children in gay homes. " Me

Julian M.
Julian M6 years ago


Fred Krohn
Fred Krohn6 years ago

Here's hoping there's still a country for the millennials to implement their utopia in when they reach that point... I find myself despising both the liberal communist/socialist extreme and the conservative theocrat/feudalist extreme, both of which are responsible for the nation's trouble.

paul c.
paul c6 years ago

Dawid, you think not? Well, that explains a great deal.

What can the rest of us divine from this report? Darwin was right. We really do evolve.