- For the first time in Gallop Polling history a very slight majority (52%) of adult (18+ years old) Americans support the moral acceptability of Gay/Lesbian Relations.
- For the first time, the percentage of men (53%) who accept the idea that homosexual relations are moral is larger than the percentage of women (51%) who accept the idea that homosexual relations are moral.
- The percentage of the American population who accept gay/lesbian relations acceptable varies in different segments of the population. Most startling here is the finding that the percentage increase in support of the acceptability of homosexual relations among Catholics (+16%) is second only to that among younger men (18-49).
The willingness to accept Gay relations as morally okay is noticeably less for Protestants (42%) and Catholics (62%) than for Non-Christians (84%) and those claiming no religion at all (85%).
But the real startling news is the amount of change between 2006 and 2010. There was a 16% change (from 46% to 62% ) among Catholics. This 16% increase is second only to the change (+20%) for men 18-49 years old.
One might create a stereotyped summary with some truth as to who supports the idea that Gay relations are acceptable. The "typical" supporter might just well be: A younger male who is a Catholic or not Christian. He is most likely an Independent or Democrat in terms of political party affiliation and moderate or liberal in political philosophy. Those among whom the change toward acceptance has been greatest are: younger men (+20%), Catholics (16%), political moderates (+14%), and Independent voters (+11%). Thus, movement in the direction of greater acceptance of homosexual relations as moral, is coming from those in the middle not from either extreme.
One question rises immediately. Why are Catholics as supportive as they are of the view that homosexual relations are morally acceptable? There are many possible answers. I do do not know which answer, which combination of answers, or which additional answers might be reasonable.
If one takes into account only those Catholics who go to Mass every Sunday, the support for the moral acceptability Gay/Lesbian relations would be significantly lower. However, the mix of those who go to Mass every Sunday and those who go less often has been the same during each year. That Catholics are generally less faithful to the Gospel and to the "Church," is an ideological statement that will not stand up to the evidence. True, the Catholic Church has a loss rate higher than any other major Christian in the U.S. but these are not primarily "liberal / progressive" members.
There is another intriguing possibility. The Catholic worldview has some essential characteristics. It believes that the spiritual is mediated to us through persons and natural elements. It also has a both-and view of things. Even when Catholics see sin like "sexual sins" there is an ability to see them as arising out of human weakness. Since Vatican II there has been an emphasis on a personal-relational emphasis in moral theology. Even when "ordinary" Catholics do not read contemporary theology, they pick up current ideas in the Church, relate them to the findings of science and their gut feelings about what is "right."
It seems incumbent upon the Magisterium to squarely face and openly listen to contemporary moral theologians and what the experience of real people indicates about the fundamentals of human sexuality.
Comments, criticisms and suggestions are welcomed.