Many Latino Catholics back gay marriage, survey shows

A group of men belonging to the Queen of Angels Foundation carry a statue of the Virgin Mary out of La Placita Church in Los Angeles before parading it through the streets to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on Sept. 14.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Nearly two out of three Latino Catholics think gay and lesbian couples should be able to legally marry, a new survey shows – even though nearly half think that sex between such couples is wrong.

The findings from the nonprofit Public Religion Research Institute, which surveyed more than 1,500 Latino adults across the country, reveal the sometimes surprising ways that faith shapes opinions about same sex marriage and abortion among Latinos as they become more religiously diverse.

Among Latinos, Catholics are more likely than Protestants to support same-sex marriage and legalized abortion, the survey showed. More than half of Latino Catholics, for instance, said someone could disagree with church teachings on homosexuality and still be a good Catholic.

Mainline Protestant Latinos were equally likely to say a good Christian could disagree with such teachings, and nearly half supported allowing couples of the same sex to marry.

However, less than a quarter of evangelical Latinos thought a good Christian could break with the church on homosexuality. Only 26% of them backed same-sex marriage, the survey found.


Overall, more than half of Latinos surveyed supported same-sex marriage. The issue of abortion split Latinos differently, with less than half -- 47% of Catholics, 41% of mainline Protestants and 26% of evangelical Protestants -- agreeing that it should be legal in all or most cases.

Fewer Latino Catholics – 39% -- thought it was possible to break with church teachings on abortion than on homosexuality. Compared with Catholics as a whole, Latino Catholics are even more strongly opposed to abortion. Yet more than half said that abortion may or may not be moral, depending on the situation.

The survey results suggest that as more Latinos leave the Roman Catholic Church, the Latino community could become more polarized, Public Religion Research Institute CEO Robert P. Jones said.

More Latinos are turning to evangelical churches, but rising numbers are also shrugging off religion completely. Latinos who do not have a religious affiliation, in turn, are more likely than other Latinos to support legalizing abortion and allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed.

“As these two groups get larger and are further apart, with Catholics somewhere in the middle, this may be the beginning of ideological polarization in the Hispanic community,” Jones said.

The survey was done in August and September of this year, using a random sample of Latinos who were part of a nationally representative sample of the U.S. population.

Interviews were conducted online in English and Spanish, with Internet service and computers provided for households that lacked them. Previous Public Religion Research Institute surveys have focused on young adults, African Americans and other groups.


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