Half of mainline Protestants, Catholics support same-sex marriage, survey finds

(Photo: Reuters / Cliff Despeaux)Support for gay marriage has been rising over the past decade.

The support for same-sex marriage in the U.S. has been climbing across religious groups over the past decade, with roughly half of White mainline Protestants and Catholics favoring marriage between same-sex couples, a new national survey finds.

Among religious groups, 55 percent of mainline Protestants favor gays and lesbians to marry, up from 36 percent 10 years ago, reported a new survey by the Pew Research Center. The survey was conducted March 13-17, 2013 among 1,501 adults nationwide.

The survey was released as the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear a challenge on a gay marriage ban in California and the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that defines marriage between a man and a woman.

The number of Catholics backing gay marriage today is at 48 percent, up 8 percent compared to data in 2001.

Support for same-sex marriage among white evangelical and black Protestants remain lower than other groups, but still showed an increase. Compared to a decade ago, 34 percent of black Protestants now favor marriage for same-sex couples, up 4 percent, and 24 percent of white evangelical Protestants support gay marriage, up 10 percent.

A strong majority, 77 percent, of people with no religious affiliation expressed support for same-sex marriage.

The new survey found that a narrow majority of Americans today support same-sex marriage, with 49 percent in support and 44 percent opposed. About 10 years ago, a most adults in the U.S. opposed gay marriage, with 58 percent opposed and 33 percent in favor.

Despite the majority support for gay marriage, 58 percent of Americans agree that "same-sex marriage would go against my religious beliefs."

Most people in religious groups also agree with this statement, according to the survey.

White evangelical Protestants had the highest percentage of people (83 percent) who agreed that same-sex marriage would violate their religious beliefs. This compares to 64 percent of black Protestants and 62 percent of Catholics.

For white mainline Protestants, 54 percent disagreed with the statement that same-sex marriage would go against their religious beliefs. About 4 in 10 people agreed with the statement, while nearly 6 in 10 people agreed with the statement in 2003.

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