December 12, 2013

Eastern and Western Europe divided over gay marriage, homosexuality

Recent developments in Croatia and Scotland highlight a stark divide between Eastern and Western Europe on the topic of same-sex marriage. While several nations in Western Europe have made it legal for gay and lesbian couples to wed with broad public support, other countries across the continent are overwhelmingly opposed to such laws.

Voters in Croatia approved a constitutional amendment on Dec. 1 that defines marriage as a “union of man and woman,” with 66% of votes cast favoring the change. At the same time, Scotland’s government appears to be on track to join neighbors England and Wales, which legalized same-sex marriage earlier this year.

A May 2013 online poll conducted by the French Institute of Public Opinion (IFOP) found majorities in several Western European countries in favor of marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples, with those in the Netherlands (85%), Germany (74%), Belgium and Spain (71% each) expressing the most support. In Scotland, the percentage of people who favor same-sex marriage has increased from 41% in 2002 t0 61% in 2010, according to the latest Scottish Social Attitudes Survey.

Meanwhile, Croatians are not the only Eastern Europeans who oppose same-sex marriage. A poll taken earlier this year by the Levada Public Opinion Center found that 85% of Russian adults say they are opposed to allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed.

FT_europe-homosexuality-viewsRelatively few in Poland (21%) and Hungary (30%) express support for same-sex marriage, according to an online Reuters/Ipsos poll, which also asked about views on legal recognition other than marriage. In both countries, significant percentages support some kind of legal recognition for same-sex couples (39% in Poland and 21% in Hungary), while 24% of Poles and 26% of Hungarians oppose same-sex marriage or any kind of legal same-sex unions.

More than half of the world’s countries that allow same-sex marriage are in Western or Northern Europe – including the Netherlands and Belgium, which were the first two countries to approve such legislation, in 2000 and 2003, respectively.

The cross-continental divide has led to talk about whether the Netherlands might grant asylum to gay and lesbian Russians seeking to escape that country’s anti-homosexual “propaganda” law – a measure passed this past June by a 436-0 vote in the Russian parliament.

The European Social Survey has not asked about same-sex marriage, but in 2010 it included a question about attitudes toward homosexuals. In several Western European countries, including France, Germany, Spain and Great Britain, more than 80% of respondents agree that “gay men and lesbians should be free to live their own lives as they wish.” In Croatia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Russia, however, fewer than 40% agree with that statement.

Topics: Eastern Europe, Europe, Western Europe, Gay Marriage and Homosexuality

  1. Photo of Michael Lipka

    is a senior editor focusing on religion at Pew Research Center.


  1. Ty Baker2 years ago

    There was never a direct confrontation of homosexuality by Jesus. Jesus never mentioned any. Christians are CHRIST followers and they should carry out words of Christ. And Christ never mentioned homosexuality. That being said….I’m gay and Catholic and I believe that our sexuality is not our option. When the Bible says to not lie with man the way a man lies with a woman, we have to look back at cultural history as to seeing that ALL women were treated as property and were made to “serve” the man. In all honesty, if we are to marry so that we can function instead of love then why marry at all if marriage is being two people uniting with love. I’m sorry but the Bible can be very hateful. Because of me doing homosexual acts…I must be stoned to death. And now I’m going to Hell. And because I eat pork am I going to Hell. Yes, Christians can support gay marriage. Because Christians are supposed to support love. It’s time to progress. The only curruption I see amongst Christians is in Africa where homosexuals are hanged and put to death by society and the law. Yet these places are also the poorest of the poor and the most corrupt. Being gay is not a sin. So do us all a favour “Christians”…stop picking and choosing which “sin” is real and which one is to be “interpreted” when you probably where Levi & Strauss along with a wool coat. Just saying. Thank you, have a nice night is Homophobicland!

  2. Steve2 years ago

    Everybody knows that homosexual activity is wrong and deviant, which includes the homosexual. The tolerance of homosexuality is destructive in nature. It is not loving to tolerate such unnatural behaviors. People tolerate such things because they falsely think that by doing so, will bring tolerance to all sorts of bad and deviant behaviors.

    1. Curtis2 years ago

      I don’t think that you could be any more wrong.

      What right has a country, or indeed a cruel and selfish individual, to say that somebody cannot enjoy their life in the way that they naturally are. I think what is truly destructive in nature is that people such as yourself persist on holding people back from leading a life that they want to lead.

      It’s a real shame

    2. Cristal TNTaxis2 years ago

      CHRISTIANS: know “You must not lie down with a male in the same way that you lie down with a woman. It is a detestable act.” -Leviticus 18:22

      NON-CHRISTIANS: know that two people of the same sex will never be able to have children. Some may choose not to or may have health issues but, in general, our bodies are designed to reproduce and make a family. There’s no amount of surgery that can change that.

      Some have claimed that homosexuality has genetic roots, but this is also said about violent behavior. No one is 100% sure but the choice to *act on* or *fulfill* those desires will always be wrong. Of course Anti-gay crimes/slurs are wrong too.

      1. Anonymous1 year ago

        Are you saying that non-Christians should oppose gay marriage because gay people can’t reproduce?

  3. Charliej953 years ago

    Scotland legislated for Marriage Equality first, before the UK. It just took longer because of the large response to the Consultation process which held it up and because of the careful formation of the bill. Westminster rushed their bill which still has less provisions for transgender people

  4. Bartłomiej van Vresna3 years ago

    I found it disgusting that you divide our continent in your analysis to “East” and “West”. We are one continent.

  5. roman catholic3 years ago

    I’m conservative catholic which strongly agree with the idea of gay marriage, because I’m very young person, and I was born one year after communism was fallen in 1989 in Poland where I was born and I live today. Inhabitant of my country are very intolerant, but americans people too. They scream about human laws, but they against basically human rights like gay marriage or freedom to be these person who create you Lord. I support gay marriage because I’m against islam fundamentalism – I’m against islam fundamentalism, because I support marriage equality, which they don’t. Europe is christian not islamic and gay rights must be allow in all development nonislamic country.

    1. Cristal TNTaxis2 years ago

      Europe can’t be Christian. There are Europeans who are Christian. Support for gay marriage and being anti-islam fundamentalism is not the the same. Christians do not support gay marriage but will not ever be involved with a hate crime, or go on those anti-gay protests for example. Homosexuality is wrong for anyone who has read the Bible on homosexuality, or anybody who knows that two people of the same sex cannot have children and make more of themselves/reproduce/have children. That’s why they say homosexuality is not natural.

      1. Keely Davis1 year ago

        Actually. The bible said homosexuality itself is fine. the activities are wrong. Misreading the Bible much. Read it again please and get your facts straight. Being gay is not wrong but having the activities is a crime but not as much as a crime as having casual sex heterosexually. they are equal and this is the 21st century. Everybody has rights to be happy and even Kennedy said the Constitution meant everyone on marriage.

  6. Eric Mival4 years ago

    I find it very hard to believe 84% of UK people think homosexual marriage is OK, afterall it is still basically Christian and homosexual marriage is NOT approved of in the bible whatever the politicians may wish!

    1. Andrew Sturdevant4 years ago

      And I find it hard to believe that the Christian right hates so many people when in the bible says to love everyone.

      1. El Kamau4 years ago

        To disagree, is not to hate. Lest, we hate everyone who believe what we do not.

    2. James4 years ago

      The question was whether you think that “gay men and lesbians should be free to live their own lives as they wish”, not whether you support same-sex marriage. Polls in the UK do very consistently show majority support for same-sex marriage at the moment, but it’s more like 50-70% than 84%. The UK is “basically Christian” in the sense that a not particularly overwhelming majority still think of themselves as Christian, but most people don’t go to church or listen very carefully to religious leaders. Anyway, there are numerous Christian denominations that strongly support same-sex marriage, so the Bible obviously isn’t as clear-cut on this point as you seem to think it is.

      1. El Kamau4 years ago

        If the Bible is not clear on homosexuality, it is not clear on anything.

      2. Kelechi3 years ago

        The bible is the basis of the church and it says clearly that homosexuality is not just a sin, but an abonimation. Christians who divert from the teachings of the bible are obviously headed the wrong way, and I strongly disagree with the doctrine of some so called “Christian denominations” which do not even follow the bible.

    3. CftxP4 years ago

      It’s also fact that religious freedom exists in the UK (though the Churches of England, Scotland, etc. are state-sponsored) so people of all faiths and belief systems are to be accepted and furthermore ALL discrimination based on sexual orientation is banned anywhere in the UK.

      Here in the U.S. as well, Catholics actually support same-sex marriage by a majority and what used to be the Anglican branch of the U.S. (Episcopal church) leads among the various faiths in this country in terms of equality for gays.

      Remember that the Bible says “do not judge” and “love one another”. Also realize that most Christians do follow the teachings of the New Testament rather than the Old Testament. And finally, let’s remember that over two-thirds of those surveyed in Israel, despite the fact that the Torah is where you find most perceived negative references towards homosexuality, support the legalization of same-sex marriage (as of now, only recognition of foreign relationships and unregistered cohabitation are legal there).

      1. Jesse4 years ago

        A majority of Catholics DON’T support homosexual marriage. I have no idea where you pulled that bit of info from. The Catholic Church’s official position is that homosexual acts are a mortal sin that is a fact.

        1. FYoung4 years ago

          CfxP’s comment referred to Catholics in the USA , not the Catholic Church. There are numerous surveys in the US that consistently show majority support among Catholics for same-sex marriages. The Church is way out of sync with the opinions of Catholics on all sexual matters.

    4. Bartłomiej van Vresna3 years ago

      Not all people are Christians, so why they should follow Christian equivalents of Shariah law, if even Christians don’t follow these rules?