49% say officials with religious objections should be able to refuse licences
Republicans say religious rights should come first, Democrats say gay rights
Opponents of same-sex marriage in Granbury, Texas, demonstrate their support for a local clerk who was refusing to issue licences to gay couples earlier this month. Photograph: Joyce Marshall/Zuma Press/Corbis
The supreme court’s ruling last month legalising same-sex marriage nationwide has left Americans sharply divided, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll that suggests support for gay unions may be down slightly from earlier this year.
The poll also found a near-even split over whether local officials with religious objections should be required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, with 47% saying that should be the case and 49% say they should be exempt.
Overall, if there is a conflict, a majority of those questioned think religious liberties should win out over gay rights, according to the poll. While 39%t said it is more important for the government to protect gay rights, 56% said protection of religious liberties should take precedence.
The poll was conducted from 9 to 13 July, less than three weeks after the supreme court ruled states cannot ban same-sex marriage.
According to the poll, 42% support same-sex marriage and 40% oppose it. The percentage saying they favour legal same-sex marriage in their state was down slightly from the 48% who said so in an April poll. In January, 44% were in favour.
Asked specifically about the supreme court ruling, 39% said they approve and 41% said they disapprove.
“What the supreme court did is jeopardise our religious freedoms,” said Michael Boehm, 61, an industrial controls engineer from the Detroit area who describes himself as a conservative-leaning independent.
“You’re going to see a conflict between civil law and people who want to live their lives according to their faiths,” Boehm said.
Boehm was among 59% of the poll respondents who said wedding-related businesses with religious objections should be allowed to refuse service to gay and lesbian couples. That compares with 52% in April.
Also, 46% said businesses more generally should be allowed to refuse service to same-sex couples, while 51% said that should not be allowed.
Claudette Girouard, 69, a retiree from Chesterfield Township, Michigan, said she is a moderate independent voter who has gradually become supportive of letting same-sex couples marry.
“I don’t see what the big hoopla is,” she said. “If they’re happy, why not?”
Girouard said local officials should be required to perform same-sex marriages, but does not think that wedding-related businesses should be forced to serve same-sex couples.
“If the official doesn’t like what he’s being asked to do, then quit,” she said. “But businesses are kind of independent, so if they have a strong belief against it, there are enough other businesses out there for someone to use.”
The poll found pronounced differences in viewpoints depending on political affiliation.
For example, 65% of Democrats but only 22% of Republicans favoured allowing same-sex couples to legally marry in their state. And 72% of Republicans but just 31% of Democrats said local officials with religious objections should be exempt from issuing marriage licences.
By a 64-32 margin, most Democrats said it is more important to protect gay rights than religious liberties when the two are in conflict. Republicans said the opposite, by 82-17.