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date: 05 December 2023

Public Opinion and Religion: Gay Rights in the United Statesfree

Public Opinion and Religion: Gay Rights in the United Statesfree

  • Darren E. SherkatDarren E. SherkatDepartment of Sociology, Southern Illinois University


Religion plays an important role in structuring civil rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people (GLBT). Religious proscriptions against homosexuality were almost universally codified into law until the late 20th century, and laws against homosexuality and denying civil rights to homosexual remain in place in most nation states. The advent of the civil rights movement for GLBT persons has generated considerable backlash both in nations where civil rights have been secured, as well as in nations where many political leaders and movements view the extension of civil rights to GLBT persons as an external cultural threat. Religious opposition to the extension of rights has swiftly followed GLBT activism seeking: (a) an end to legal proscriptions; (b) alleviation of harassment and discrimination; (c) marriage and family recognition; (d) action related to the HIV/AIDS epidemic; and (e) recognition of transgendered identity and transgendered rights. GLBT movements quickly achieved considerable success and even garnered support from religious liberals. Data from the General Social Surveys (GSS) in the United States show that while support for same-sex marriage has increased in the U.S., significant differences remain across religious groups. Specifically, sectarian Protestants are significantly less supportive of civil rights for GLBT persons, while the non-religious are most supportive. While GLBT persons are making substantial political gains throughout the world, in many places backlash is eroding civil rights, and in much of the world the movement has lacked success. Several liberal religious groups have been crucial for the international success of human rights campaigns for GLBT persons, however conservative religious groups from several religious traditions have successfully promoted the continued repression of GLBT persons and movements.


  • Groups and Identities
  • Political Sociology
  • Political Values, Beliefs, and Ideologies
  • Public Opinion

Civil rights for sexual minorities is a hot political topic globally, and religious groups are key actors usually voicing opposition to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered (GLBT) rights, though sometimes supporting the extension of rights and protections. The very idea of civil rights for GLBT persons is quite new, and state-sponsored discrimination against GLBT persons was ubiquitous in modern polities until the late 20th century. As a consequence, until quite recently religious opponents of civil rights for GLBT persons have found themselves on an advantaged political playing field, with numerous secular supporters and few secular or religious opponents. In most nations of the world this remains the case, and even in nations such as India and Nigeria where interreligious conflict is palpable, competing religious groups are united in squelching political success for GLBT movements.

This article provides an overview of how religious factors impact civil rights for GLBT persons. There are several political issues at stake. Laws governing sexual behavior are the most basic: in many nations GLBT persons remain subject to the death penalty under law, while numerous religious movements from several faith traditions have advocated harsh punishment for homosexual activity. GLBT movements have also acted to secure protection from violence by citizens and police harassment. In the United States, the founding political actions by GLBT activists were protests against police brutality and harassment at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. GLBT movements often push to secure other rights, such as freedom from discrimination in housing, education, and jobs—including jobs in politics and the military. In each instance, religious movements have been central in opposing the extension of rights in the public sphere, though at times in a few places religious groups have advocated for these rights. States convey myriad benefits to married couples, including control over children, and the issue of same-sex marriage and the validation of GLBT families has been an important political issue in many nations. Finally, gender identity has also become a politicized issue, with some unique variations across time and polities.

Religion, Politics, and the Legalization of Homosexuality

Homosexuality was illegal in most modern nation-states until the late 20th century, and religious movements and proscriptions were central to codifying homosexuality as illegal. In the most extreme cases, homosexuality is still treated as a capital crime, in accordance with religious edicts. GLBT political movements, which are increasingly cross-national movements, are seeking to legalize homosexuality and eliminate extreme sanctions.

The codification of law regarding the regulation of sexuality is spotty and dependent on definitions of sexual behavior and identity that shift radically across time and space, and that are applied unevenly (and even codified unevenly) across social strata and by gender. My focus is on modern nation-states developing in the 19th century, since in prior periods laws were even less well specified and political processes were less structurally identifiable. Religious movements certainly informed opposition to homosexuality and led to legal restrictions in many polities, but there was considerable variation. In most societies, religious proscriptions against homosexual activity forged the content of secular law, and this is particularly true in Abrahamic societies (perhaps especially in Islamic-dominated polities), although research also suggests a similar legal and social aversion in Confucian societies (Adamczyk, 2017; Adamczyk & Cheng, 2014; Adamczyk & Pitt, 2009). Because of the lack of clear proscriptions against female homosexuality in Abrahamic law, many nations developed sexual regulations that do not prohibit homosexual relations among women. Pederasty between men and boys of lower caste is also politically acceptable, and not considered to be homosexuality in some Islamic societies (Ayubi, 2003).

Political movements against antihomosexuality laws are in precarious circumstances in many nations, particularly in Africa and in Islamic nations. Indeed, religious radicalization among Christians, Muslims, and Hindus has enabled a push for harsher penalties and maintaining criminalization. In predominately Christian nations in Africa political movements seeking severe penalties have been supported by Christian movements based in the United States, such as the American Center for Law and Justice, Family Watch International, and the American Family Association (Baptiste, 2014). Pan-Islamic political movements supported by Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich states have had a similar impact on the push for criminalization and harsher penalties in Malaysia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and North Africa. Similarly, conservative Hindu movements have successfully pushed for criminalization of homosexuality in India (McDermott, 2015).

On the other side of the issue, several international social movement organizations have pressed for human rights for GLBT persons. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Outright International have pressured the United Nations and many nation-states to ensure such rights. These organizations do receive some support and partnership with liberal religious organizations such as the Unitarian Universalist Association, and the United Church of Christ. The Anglican Church has also attempted to quell harsh treatment against GLBT persons, which has created some controversy in more conservative parts of the Anglican Communion (Brittain & McKinnon, 2011). In nations where harsh penalties remain, the presence of welcoming and affirming movements in liberal religious organizations may limit the widespread prosecution of homosexuality. While there has been some success in pressuring nations to decriminalize homosexuality and avoid the application of the death penalty, in much of the world religious movements seeking harsh criminal sanctions dominate the political playing field (Adamczyk, 2017).

The GLBT Rights Movement and Religion

Political movements for gay rights developed slowly in the mid- to late 20th century, emanating from gay clubs and businesses, and from apolitical associations like the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis (Fetner, 2008; Linneman, 2003; Rimmerman, 2002; Smith & Haider-Markel, 2002). Religious anti-GLBT movements arose largely as a reaction to protests for civil rights coming from the newly formed political organizations. Prior to the Stonewall Riots and subsequent movements seeking to end harassment and discrimination, there was very little need for anti-GLBT religious movements to militate against GLBT rights. Indeed, the framing of GLBT rights issues and the tactics to secure or oppose the extension of rights is the result of interplay between GLBT movements and the mostly religious countermovements (Fetner, 2008, 2015).

One of the early political strategies of the GLBT movement in the United States was to target municipal discrimination ordinances which were put in place to ensure compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which barred discrimination based on race and gender. The strategy for GLBT groups was to push to expand these protections to include sexual orientation, and early efforts focused on GLBT-friendly municipalities like San Francisco and Miami. The nature of municipal politics and the ubiquity of gay-owned businesses in major cities led to several unexpected victories for the GLBT movement, as city council members and mayors were generally supportive of non-discrimination (Bernstein, 1997; Haider-Markel & Meier, 1996). Serious backlash from fundamentalist Protestant movements and Catholic groups followed swiftly, and conservative Christian activists framed the issue as one of protecting children and families (Fetner, 2008; Linneman, 2003).

The earliest anti-GLBT movement in the United States in the 1970s was Save Our Children, founded by singer and former Miss America, Anita Bryant. Save Our Children mobilized conservative Christians to successfully overturn anti-discrimination ordinances in several cities, including Miami, and also pushed for legislation to mandate the firing of GLBT public school employees (Fischli, 1979; Frank, 2013; Sherrill & Yang, 2000). Save Our Children helped amplify the importance of sexuality issues for the nascent Christian Right groups, and quickly found allies in Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority. Yet growing public support for non-discrimination outside of conservative Christian circles led to a well-publicized boycott of orange juice while Bryant was a spokesperson for that industry. Secular liberals outside of the GLBT community mocked Bryant and her fellow fundamentalists. On the issue of discrimination in housing and employment, the GLBT movement found a powerful ally among the growing number of Americans who were ambivalent about religion and wary of the development of the Christian Right (Haider-Markel & Meier, 1996).

Anti-discrimination ordinances remain a key focus for GLBT political movements and federal prohibitions against discrimination are the ultimate goal (Rimmerman, 2002). Conservative religious movements remain staunchly opposed to anti-discrimination ordinances, and several have recently failed even in large cities like Houston, Texas (Sherkat, 2017), while concentrations of fundamentalist Protestants have a negative effect on favorable voting toward gay rights in public referenda (Haider-Markel & Meier, 1996; McVeigh & Diaz, 2004). Attempts to pass federal laws protecting GLBT persons have met with fierce opposition from conservative religious groups and the Republican Party. Indeed, the contemporary framing of the issue by anti-GLBT rights groups is that discrimination is an issue of religious freedom—borrowing the rights rhetoric from the GLBT and civil rights movements. In the United States, the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision in the Supreme Court rendered a victory for religious conservatives, paving the way to protect discrimination by religious conservatives against GLBT persons and bolstering the political advantage for anti-GLBT religious movements (Fetner, 2015). The right for religious conservatives to discriminate against GLBT persons was further benefited by the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Supreme Court decision in 2017.

Religion and the Politics of GLBT Public Expression

The GLBT movement began with a quest for liberation in public spaces, pushing for the right to openly express sexuality free from harassment and intimidation from the police or the broader public. The primary focus of the early GLBT movement coalesced around the tactic of “pride marches” that contest the right to public space and public recognition. Later movements mobilized around the issue of crimes committed against GLBT persons, and also on the right of GLBT youth to avoid being subject to largely religious conversion therapies. In all of these things, GLBT movements are contesting the right to express their identities in public and the recognition that GLBT persons and youth should be protected.

The first gay pride marches were conducted in 1970 on or near the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City and several other large U.S. cities. These celebrations were controversial and inherently political because many municipalities, including New York City, had ordinances prohibiting the public expression of homosexuality (Holland, 2017). Pride marches became regular events and enormously popular, and quickly spread to most large cities in the United States and throughout the world (Encarnación, 2011). Pride marches have even taken place regularly in hostile environments such as Pakistan and Indonesia (Encarnación, 2014; Nyanzi, 2014). In tolerant locations, perhaps especially places like San Francisco, Chicago, and Sydney, pride events have now become public events, celebrated by many residents of the community, and not just GLBT persons and groups.

Liberal religious groups and individuals have had a constant presence in pride events since the 1970s, as have conservative religious counterprotesters. Many of the religious pro-GLBT participants in pride events are gays and lesbians, though others are friends, family, and allies (Rodriguez & Ouellette, 2000). A sizeable proportion of GLBT persons maintain religious identities and actively participate in religious groups (Sherkat, 2017; Yip & Page, 2016). In the early pride parades in the United States, the primary counterprotesters tended to be conservative Catholics, including those in religious orders wearing religious garb. This is partly a function of Catholic concentrations in the major cities hosting the initial events (New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Boston are heavily Catholic). But counterprotesters hailed from other religious groups as well, particularly as pride marches diffused to smaller cities and locales with concentrations of sectarian Protestants. Cross-nationally, pride events have been met with violent religious opposition in several locales, and violence and threats of violence have occurred in several nations, emanating from Orthodox Christians, Catholics, Jews, and Muslims (Adamczyk, 2017; Keshner, 2015). More commonly, religious conservatives have militated against permitting parade events and for excluding GLBT groups from other “public” parades (such as Saint Patrick’s Day parades).

In the United States, conservative Christian religious movements have been central to opposing the extension of hate crime penalties to crimes against GLBT persons. Most hate crime legislation initially focused on additional penalties for crimes committed with malice against racial or religious groups. GLBT activists were quick to advocate for extension of these laws to GLBT persons, particularly motivated by the brutal murder of a young gay man, Matthew Shepard. For conservative Christian groups, the extension of hate crime status for crimes against GLBT persons was considered “special rights,” and was contrasted to the legitimate protection for ethnic and religious minorities (Alden & Parker, 2005). In this, and several other political issues regarding sexuality in the United States, religious conservatives attempted to pit African Americans and other ethnic minorities against GLBT persons (Abrajano, 2010; Harris, 2010).

Recently, several states in the United States and some European nations have banned gay “conversion therapy” (Fetner, 2008; Hartmann, 2015). As of 2018, 11 states and the District of Columbia ban conversion therapy, and 24 more states have enacted legislation seeking to end the practice (Miller, 2018). The European and British parliaments have also called for an end to conversion therapy in the practice, and in the United Kingdom, the Anglican Church has been a key supporter of the ban. Conversion therapy has long been associated with poor mental health outcomes for GLBT youth, and has been linked to high rates of teen suicide (Herek & Garnets, 2007). When the American Psychiatric Association (1972) and the World Health Organization (WHO) (1992) stopped classifying homosexuality as a disorder, mainstream secular psychiatry quickly moved away from the conversion model, and instead gay conversion became a practice rooted in mostly Christian clinical communities. Religious groups like the American Family Association and various ex-gay ministries (such as Exodus International) became the principle proponents of the cure, and form the opposition to banning the practice.

Religion and the Politics of HIV/AIDS

The HIV/AIDS epidemic had a global impact on religion and politics. Initially, conservative religious groups saw the epidemic as a curse from their gods against gays, and they militated against public health responses such as condom distribution, subsidized testing, and medical research to seek treatments (Allen & Heald, 2004; Harris, 2010; Smith, Simmons, & Mayer, 2005). Yet, globally, many religious groups have long supported public health initiatives and witnessed the devastation of the disease in areas where it was concentrated, particularly in Africa, among gays, and, in the United States, in the African American population (Allen & Heald, 2004; Harris, 2010). HIV/AIDS was a challenging problem for religious groups opposed to homosexuality, but nonetheless committed to charity. Over time, interactions with GLBT persons and groups through AIDS/HIV ministries had an impact on how many religious groups and individuals viewed GLBT persons (Harris, 2010).

AIDS/HIV led many religious groups to substantially moderate positions on GLBT rights. And, much of the “welcoming and affirming” movement within liberal and moderate Protestant denominations was spurred by reactions to the epidemic (McQueeney, 2009; Whitehead, 2013). Nevertheless, Christian and Islamic conservative religious movements militated against health education programs and condom distribution efforts seeking to mitigate the health crisis. Christian conservatives in the United States also used the HIV/AIDs epidemic to argue against comprehensive sex education in schools, and to instead favor abstinence-only programs and avoid curricula that acknowledged homosexuality (Francis & Liverpool, 2009). Christian and Muslim conservative groups remain at the forefront of opposition to HIV/AIDS mitigation efforts, particularly in Africa (Marshall & Taylor, 2006).

Religion and the Politics of GLBT Families

Religious conservatives argued that granting civil rights for GLBT persons undermines traditional families, by promoting a culture of hedonistic sex in contrast to the chaste and child-centered nuclear family (Heath, 2012). GBLT movements reacted by amplifying the frame that GLBT persons were part of families and should have the right to construct and maintain families (Fetner, 2008, 2015). Since the late 1980s, GLBT rights movements have pushed for parental and marriage rights, although this was met with considerable backlash from religious conservatives. GLBT persons still face considerable discrimination under the law on issues of parental rights, particularly in the cases of divorce from a heterosexual spouse or when seeking to adopt children. In the United States, and many other nations, same-sex marriage is legal, though religious groups continue to fight to rescind the right to marry.

Most political issues involving parental rights for GLBT persons have involved judicial decisionmaking. GLBT persons were presumed unfit to be parents and it was considered to be in the best interest of children to place them into custody of the heterosexual parent, other relatives, or even placed in foster care (Rivers, 2010; Ryan, Pearlmutter, & Groza, 2004). GLBT movements have long sought to litigate against this tendency in family law, yet they confront a formidable legal apparatus from Christian legal groups, supported by conservative Christian activist scholars who seek to provide research support for the claim that GLBT parents harm children (Heath, 2012). At the individual level, studies have consistently found that evangelical Protestants and people who believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God are more opposed to allowing parental rights for same-sex couples (Brewer, 2003; Whitehead & Perry, 2014).

The extension of marital rights for same-sex couples became a focus for some GLBT activists in the late 1980s. Without marriage, GLBT persons were denied the many benefits that accrue under the law, particularly for taxation and inheritance, but also credit and property acquisition, medical decisionmaking, and parental rights. Religious conservatives militated strongly against same-sex marriage, leading the Republican Party to adopt a plank in their party platform in 1992, stating: “We oppose any legislation or law which legally recognizes same-sex marriages and allows such couples to adopt children or provide foster care.” The Christian Right launched a considerable legislative blitz in the mid-1990s to “defend marriage” by preventing same-sex marriage. At the federal level, this culminated in the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prevented same-sex couples from being considered spouses for the receipt of federal benefits such as Social Security or health insurance for federal employees.

Many states also passed their own DOMA acts—28 by referenda between 2000 and 2008—and states and counties with disproportionate shares of evangelical Protestants were more likely to vote for the bans (Djupe, Neiheisel, & Conger, 2018; McVeigh & Diaz, 2004; Soule, 2004). Indeed, some scholars have claimed that same-sex marriage referenda helped propel more Republicans to victory by increasing turnout among evangelical Protestants, particularly in the 2004 presidential election cycle. Empirical studies fail to find much evidence of an impact on the overall election (Campbell & Quin Monson, 2008; Lewis 2005). Similarly, some pundits speculated that the Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage in California in 2008 may have been bolstered by higher rates of voter turnout among African Americans (who are disproportionately evangelical Protestants) and Latinos (who are disproportionately Catholic) turning out for President Obama. However, more systematic examinations found that Proposition 8 would have passed even if African American and Latino voters turned out at the same rate as in 2004 (Abrajano, 2010; Egan & Sherrill, 2009).

At the individual level, religiosity has been shown to play a strong role in structuring beliefs about GLBT rights. Research has focused principally on the negative effect of evangelical religious identifications, church attendance, and beliefs about the Bible on support for civil rights for gays and lesbians (Brewer, 2003; Burdette, Ellison, & Hill, 2005; Olson, Cadge, & Harrison, 2006). And, predictably, evangelicals, people with high rates of religious participation, and people who have inerrant beliefs about the Bible are most likely to oppose the extension of marriage rights to same-sex couples (Gay, Lynxwiler, & Smith, 2015; Sherkat, Powell-Williams, Maddox, & de Vries, 2011): this is true for whites, African Americans, Latinos, and Asians (Ellison, Acevedo, & Ramos-Wada, 2011; Sherkat, 2017; Sherkat, de Vries, & Creek, 2010).

Figure 1. Trend in Support for Same-Sex Marriage by Religious Identification.

Source: General Social Surveys, 2004–2016.

While evangelical Protestants and people who hold inerrantist views of the Bible remain mostly opposed to the extension of marriage rights for same-sex couples, public opinion has shifted considerably in the 21st century. Figure 1 presents the trend in support for same-sex marriage by religious identification using data from the General Social Surveys from 2004 to 2016. Overall, in 2004 only 45% of Americans supported same-sex marriage, but this increased to almost 72% by 2016. Among evangelical Protestants, only 25% supported same-sex marriage in 2004, and while a majority now supports marriage rights (shortly after the Supreme Court’s Obergefell 2015 decision extended marriage rights nationwide) they lag substantially behind other Americans at 53%. Moderate Protestants are also less supportive than other Americans, with 37% supporting such marriage in 2004, increasing to 63% in 2016. While the Catholic Church has continued to take a hard line against homosexuality and same-sex marriage, American Catholics are actually more supportive of marriage rights for same-sex couples. In 2004 Catholic support exceed the average at 53%, and was higher than support among liberal Protestants (49%). By 2016, over three quarters of American Catholics were in favor of marriage rights for same-sex couples, and liberal Protestant support jumped to almost 83%. Several studies suggest that discussions and debates over sexuality in American religious denominations played a consequential role in the liberalization of attitudes toward homosexuals (Djupe & Neiheisel, 2007; Djupe, Olson, & Gilbert, 2006).

Figure 1 also shows that the groups most supportive of same-sex marriage across all periods are non-Christians (most of whom are Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Unitarians) and people who reject religious identification. Nearly 70% of non-Christians supported same-sex marriage in 2004, and this increased to 87% in 2016. In 2004, about 68% of respondents who rejected religious identification supported same-sex marriage, and support increased to over 90% in 2017. A large and growing proportion of Americans reject religious identification, and while religious “nones” made up 14% of respondents in 2004, they constituted 21% of respondents in 2016. And, while people who reject religious identification are certainly more tolerant of sexual minorities, there is mounting evidence that the growth in the proportion of nones may be related to beliefs about sexuality. Studies have suggested that the politicization of sexuality by the Christian Right has driven many Americans to led to increasing rates of defection from religion, particularly in conservative areas (see Djupe et al., 2018; Hout & Fischer, 2014).

Research has sought to understand why evangelicals are hostile to sexual minorities and oppose marital and civil rights. Research has suggested that evangelical Protestants may be less likely to have friends or family members who are open about their homosexuality, and this may influence their intolerance (Djupe et al., 2018; Merino, 2013). This follows the “contact hypothesis” rooted in Gordon Allport’s theories of interethnic prejudice. As more GLBT people have “come out of the closet” it becomes evident that friends, family, and respected others are GLBT. That realization may make GLBT persons seem less threatening, and reduce the motivation to treat them differently in the public and political arena (Djupe & Calfano, 2013). Evangelicals and religious conservatives have also gravitated toward the Republican Party, which may help sustain prejudices against GLBT persons. Other studies have examined how religious identifications and beliefs foster an attribution of willfulness for homosexual behavior and desire (as opposed to being inborn), and this leads to opposition to same-sex marriage (Haider-Markel & Joslyn, 2008; Whitehead, 2014). However, the religious distinctiveness of evangelicals and Bible believers remains even after controls for political identification and conservative ideology (Sherkat, 2017; Sherkat et al., 2010).

Another potential explanation for the persistence of religious influences on intolerance toward GLBT rights is that religious factors may trigger hostilities. Studies of religious priming have shown that the presentation of religious themes leads subjects to believe that gays and lesbians are more threatening, and this makes them prone to oppose civil liberties for GLBT persons (Djupe & Calfano, 2013). Religious contexts also appear to play a role, and areas where evangelical Christians dominate often foster opposition to civil rights even among those who are not themselves evangelical (Adamczyk & Pitt, 2009).

Religion and Transgender Rights

The GLB movement was slow to embrace transgender issues, and both gay and lesbian political movements sometimes rejected their inclusion (Gamson, 1997; Vitulli, 2010). Yet persistent discrimination and prejudice against trans-people gradually broke down some of the boundaries between these movements, in large part because they shared a common opponent in the Christian Right (Fetner, 2008, 2015; Vitulli, 2010). In India, transgendered people have a unique status in some Hindu sects, and this has created controversy as conservative Hindus from other sects reject transgender rights (Gettleman, 2018).

Nevertheless, the issue of gender identity continues to divide many in the GLB community, in part because they see gender identity issues from a homonormative lens—where the key identities are gay and lesbian—and also because of strategic concerns—many in the mainstream GLB movement see gender identity issues as a losing cause that will hinder the passage of more expansive non-discrimination legislation (Vitulli, 2010). Christian Right movements and politicians have pushed for legislation to prevent transsexual people from garnering public accommodations such as gender neutral bathrooms and changing facilities, and have successfully passed state and municipal legislation barring people from using restrooms designated for a gender other than what was assigned at birth (Schilt & Westbrook, 2015). Politicization of gender identity has also impacted educational institutions attempting to accommodate transgendered students and staff, as well as the military. In the United States, the Christian Right has successfully lobbied for rollbacks in protections for transgendered students as well as for transgendered persons in the military.

Emerging Issues in Religion and the Politics of GLBT Rights

There are several emerging issues that will influence the future of religion and GLBT rights. The interplay between the GLBT movement and the Christian Right in the United States has led to a novel strategy for religious conservatives—to maintain that religious persons’ freedoms are violated if they are not allowed to discriminate against GLBT persons. This is particularly evident in the logic of the Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court decision supporting “religious liberty.” Religious conservatives are poised to achieve some success on this front, potentially enabling employers and even government officials to discriminate. This strategy may well spread to other Western nations. Yet, in the United States and elsewhere there is a growing and powerful religious left, which may successfully counter conservative Christian claims that religious freedoms have been violated. Second, while many European nations have provided rights and protections for GLBT persons, much of eastern Europe has used religious legitimations to rescind GLBT rights. Further, the rise of nationalistic and anti-immigrant movements in much of Europe has brought with it hostility toward GLBT persons—often fused with a new sense of Christian nationalism. Ironically, immigration trends may also make many European nations more hostile to GLBT rights, since most of the immigrants are from Muslim nations where hostility toward GLBT persons is considerable (Adamczyk, 2017). Finally, there is a critical question of the position of the Catholic Church, particularly for GLBT rights in Latin America (Encarnación, 2011, 2014). Much of the Catholic laity has pushed for liberalization and inclusion, especially in Europe, the United States, and in parts of Latin America. Yet the Catholic laity is divided across continents—with African and Asian Catholics being more hostile. The question could divide the Catholic Church, much as it has the Anglican Communion.


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