Support For Marriage Equality Still Has Big Generational Gaps

by Mia Mercado
Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Yesterday marked two years since the landmark case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled gay marriage bans unconstitutional. While that occasion is certainly worth celebrating, it’s likely no surprise or secret that marriage equality is still not completely accepted in our culture. A recent report from Pew Research Center shows that support for same-sex marriage still has significant generational gaps.

Younger demographics widely support same-sex marriage. 74 percent of Millennials (ages 18 to 36) and 65 percent of Gen Xers (ages 37-52) say they support marriage equality. However, that number begins to dwindle as the age of the person surveyed increases. Only 56 percent of Baby Boomers (ages 53 to 71) and 41 of people in the Silent Generation (ages 72 to 89) said they support same-sex marriage.

Overall, support for marriage equality is at an all-time high, according to a recent Gallup poll. 64 percent of Americans said they support the legalization of same sex marriage. While that number is encouraging, it also highlights another pretty disheartening statistic: almost one in three people still don’t think gay marriage should be legal. While widespread support for marriage equality is growing, we still have a way to go.

A recent poll from Gallup bracketed age groups a little differently, thus showing a slightly different outcome for age-based support of same-sex marriage. The report shows that for the first time in their polling history, a majority of people 65 and older supported marriage equality (53 percent). However, as evidenced by information from Pew’s most recent report, those divides start to shift when you look specifically at generational divides.

Support for marriage equality also shifts depending on religious affiliations. Pew’s report shows that 85 percent of people who don’t have any religious affiliated say they favor marriage equality. The same is true for only 44 percent of black Protestants and 35 percent of white evangelical Protestants. Responses also shift heavily depending on political party affiliation. While support for marriage equality is at an all-time high for Republicans, a majority still do not support gay marriage. However, an overwhelming majority of Democrats and Independents support marriage equality, at 74 and 71 percent respectively.

As public opinion leans towards acceptance, more of the population has come out as LGBT+. Now, because it’s legal and federally recognized, more LGBT+ couples are getting married. Before the Supreme Court’s ruling, 38 percent of same-sex couples who lived together were married. Now, the same is true of 61 percent of cohabiting gay couples.

As much as we’d all like to wish it so, one U.S. Supreme Court case cannot end homophobia. That’s not to say the legalization of same-sex marriage isn’t significant; it’s incredibly significant. Creating a more accepting culture requires policy change, but it also takes time, as evidenced by older generations still holding strong onto ideas of what marriage should and shouldn’t be. Public policy and public opinion have to inform each other, learning and growing in tandem.

While Pew’s recent survey does highlight some lingering negative public opinions, it also shows just how much we’ve grown as a society in the past few years. If overall support for marriage equality can almost double in ten years, imagine where we will be in ten more.