New Poll: Overwhelming Opposition to Allowing Public Employees to Discriminate Against LGBT Couples

by HRC Staff

Results serve as a clear warning to Congress that public rejects so-called “religious liberty” bills

WASHINGTON –The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, has released the results of new polling it commissioned showing that an overwhelming majority of Americans do not support allowing government officials or public employees to discriminate against LGBT couples on religious grounds.

The survey showed that more than two-thirds opposed allowing government employees being able to deny service to LGBT people on the basis of their personal religious beliefs. A 60 percent majority of voters also said they would be less likely to support a candidate for president who supported legislation allowing government employees to deny service to LGBT people.

“The overwhelming majority of public officials across the country are issuing marriage licenses to all couples, including same-sex couples, because upholding the rule of law is the right thing to do. Now it’s clear that the American people agree, and will have no patience with public employees who want to use their private religious views as an excuse to deny equal treatment to LGBT people under the law,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs. “These results are a clear warning that members of Congress who want to move forward with so-called ‘religious liberty’ bills do so at their own peril.”

The survey found that only 24 percent of Americans support allowing government employees to cite their religious beliefs as a reason to deny service to a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender person. A bipartisan 68 majority percent oppose allowing government employees being able to deny service. Republicans opposed allowing government employees to discriminate 50 percent to 41 percent. Non-college graduates opposed discrimination 67 percent to 24 percent, and seniors opposed discrimination 64 to 26 percent.

While Republican candidates running for President have split on the issue of Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, many have been much more vocal in support of the so-called “First Amendment Defense Act” (FADA), which, as introduced, would allow government employees to cite religious objections and argue that they would not be required to serve same-sex couples. For example, FADA would allow an employee like Kim Davis to argue she was permitted to deny a marriage license to a couple, or allow an employee at the Department of Veterans Affairs to argue that they were not required to process a claim for survivor benefits for the same-sex spouse of a servicemember for personal religious reasons.

A large majority opposed such a bill, with only 28 percent supporting and 63 percent remaining opposed. (View the question wording and polling memo here).

Finally, 60 percent said they would be less likely to support a candidate for President who supported a bill that would allow government officials to refuse service to LGBT people based on their personal religious beliefs.

The poll's findings come after the New York Times Editorial Board warned against FADA, calling it a “ploy” that “would deliberately warp the bedrock principle of religious freedom under the Constitution.”

Methodology: Findings are based on a national survey of 1008 adults reached via live telephone interviews on both landlines and cellphones, conducted for the Human Rights Campaign on September 9-13, 2015.  The margin of error for results is +/-3.09 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence interval.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.


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