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, Gay Marriage and Homosexuality, Western Europe

  1. is Assistant Editor at the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project.

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13 Comments

  1. Charliej953 months 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

    Reply
  2. Bartłomiej van Vresna3 months ago

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

    Reply
  3. roman catholic6 months 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.

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  4. Eric Mival8 months 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!

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    1. Andrew Sturdevant8 months ago

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

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      1. El Kamau6 months ago

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

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    2. James7 months 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.

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      1. El Kamau6 months ago

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

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      2. Kelechi3 months 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.

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    3. CftxP7 months 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).

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      1. Jesse7 months 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.

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        1. FYoung7 months 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.

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    4. Bartłomiej van Vresna3 months ago

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

      Reply