(RNS) While the Vatican and U.S. bishops maintain a hard-line stand against most gay rights causes, American Catholics are more supportive of gay rights than other U.S. Christians, according to new research released Tuesday (March 22).
A report by Washington-based Public Religion Research Institute found that 74 percent of Catholics favor legal recognition for same-sex relationships, either through civil unions (31 percent) or civil marriage (43 percent).
That figure is higher than the 64 percent of all Americans, 67 percent of mainline Protestants, 48 percent of black Protestants and 40 percent of evangelicals.
Less than one-quarter (22 percent) of Catholics want no legal recognition of same-sex partnerships, while a majority (56 percent) believes that same-sex adult relationships are not sinful.
The analysis was based on polling conducted by PRRI and the Pew Research Center last fall. In almost every category, Catholics scored 5 to 6 percentage points higher on supporting gay rights than other U.S. churches.
Neither Jews (who are generally among the most supportive of gay rights issues) nor Muslims were included in the data because of their small sample size.
The PRRI analysis found notable generational differences on gay rights—more than half (56 percent) of Catholics under age 35 favor same-sex marriage, compared to only one in five (21 percent) of Catholics age 65 and older.
Church attendance is also a notable factor—the report found that about 25 percent of Catholics who attend services weekly or more favor same-sex marriage, compared to 43 percent who attend a couple of times a month, and 59 percent of Catholics who attend a few times or less a year.