While perceptions and treatment of the LGBT community by the general public have undoubtedly improved in recent years, they still feel some stigma, as a new Pew survey reveals.
An overwhelming share of America’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults (92%) say society has become more accepting of them in the past decade and an equal number expect it to grow even more accepting in the decade ahead.
At the same time, however, a new nationally representative survey of 1,197 LGBT adults offers testimony to the many ways they feel they have been stigmatized by society. About four-in-ten (39%) say that at some point in their lives they were rejected by a family member or close friend because of their sexual orientation or gender identity; 30% say they have been physically attacked or threatened; 29% say they have been made to feel unwelcome in a place of worship; and 21% say they have been treated unfairly by an employer. About six-in-ten (58%) say they’ve been the target of slurs or jokes.
The LGBT community has some distinctive characteristics from the rest of society. Although they are less happy, they are more positive in their attitudes.
The survey finds that the LGBT population is distinctive in many ways beyond sexual orientation. Compared with the general public, Pew Research LGBT survey respondents are more liberal, more Democratic, less religious, less happy with their lives, and more satisfied with the general direction of the country. On average, they are younger than the general public. Their family incomes are lower, which may be related to their relative youth and the smaller size of their households. They are also more likely to perceive discrimination not just against themselves but also against other groups with a legacy of discrimination.
It should come as no surprise that the LGBT community views religious institutions as unfriendly and as a consequence are considerably less religious that the general population.
Religion is a difficult terrain for many LGBT adults. Lopsided majorities describe the Muslim religion (84%), the Mormon Church (83%), the Catholic Church (79%) and evangelical churches (73%) as unfriendly toward people who are LGBT. They have more mixed views of the Jewish religion and mainline Protestant churches, with fewer than half of LGBT adults describing those religions as unfriendly, one-in-ten describing each of them as friendly and the rest saying they are neutral.
The survey finds that LGBT adults are less religious than the general public. Roughly half (48%) say they have no religious affiliation, compared with 20% of the public at large. Of those LGBT adults who are religiously affiliated, one-third say there is a conflict between their religious beliefs and their sexual orientation or gender identity. And among all LGBT adults, about three-in-ten (29%) say they have been made to feel unwelcome in a place of worship.
I think that homosexuality is going to be a major problem for religious institutions. They have dug in their heels on an issue that is turning against them. Of the major religious institutions still with anti-gay attitudes, the Mormons seem to be the first to sense the danger and start the process of slowly preparing their followers for a change of policy.