Where the Public Stands on Religious Liberty vs. Nondiscrimination

Source: Pew Research Center

Two-thirds say employers should provide birth control in insurance plans, but public is split over same-sex wedding services and use of public bathrooms by transgender people

The U.S. public expresses a clear consensus on the contentious question of whether employers who have religious objections to contraception should be required to provide it in health insurance plans for their employees. Fully two-thirds of American adults say such businesses should be required to cover birth control as part of their employees’ insurance plans, according to a new Pew Research Center survey, while just three-in-ten say businesses should be allowed to refuse to cover contraception for religious reasons.

The survey of more than 4,500 U.S. adults exploresrecent controversies that have pitted claims of religious liberty and traditional morality against civil rights and nondiscrimination policies. And it finds that Americans are more closely divided on two other hotly debated questions: whether businesses should be able to refuse service to same-sex couples, and whether transgender people should be required to use particular restrooms.

About half of U.S. adults (49%) say businesses that provide wedding services, such as catering or flowers, should be required to provide those services to same-sex couples as they would for any other couple. But a nearly equal share (48%) say businesses should be able to refuse services to same-sex couples if the business owner has religious objections to homosexuality.

And in the debate over bathroom use by transgender people, roughly half of Americans (51%) say transgender people should be allowed to use public restrooms of the gender with which they currently identify, while nearly as many (46%) say transgender individuals should be required to use restrooms of the gender they were born into.1

The U.S. public appears polarized on these debates, just as it is on many other aspects of American politics. One of the goals of the survey was to see how many Americans feel torn because they can understand where both sides are coming from on these issues. The short answer is: not many.

Before being asked to state which position is closest to their own, respondents were asked how much, if at all, they sympathize with the arguments on either side of an issue. (For full question wording, see topline.)

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