October 7, 2014

Blacks are lukewarm to gay marriage, but most say businesses must provide wedding services to gay couples

African Americans remain less likely than white Americans to support same-sex marriage, as has been the case for several years. But at the same time, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that a majority of blacks – a significantly bigger share than among whites – say that wedding-related businesses, such as caterers or florists, should be required to provide wedding services to gay and lesbian couples.

Race and Same-Sex MarriageOur aggregated 2014 polling has found that about four-in-ten black Americans (42 %) support same-sex marriage, 11 percentage points below the comparable figure among whites (53%). Meanwhile, seven-in-ten African Americans (70%) say that homosexual behavior is a sin, compared with 47% of whites who say this, according to our new survey.

On the same survey, we asked respondents for the first time whether they think businesses that provide wedding services should be allowed to refuse to serve same-sex couples for religious reasons. On this issue, blacks stand out as especially likely to say that such businesses should be required to provide the same services to gay and lesbian couples as they would to all other customers. About six-in-ten African Americans (61%) say wedding-related businesses should be required to serve same-sex couples, compared with 45% of whites who say the same.

Why do African Americans think wedding related businesses should be required to provide services to same-sex couples even though many harbor reservations about such unions? This may partly reflect empathy among African Americans for the perceived discrimination that gays and lesbians face in American society.

Most African Americans (80%) say that gays and lesbians face a lot of discrimination in the U.S., which is much higher than the number of whites who say this (61%). The poll also finds that, for the overall public, most people who think gays and lesbians face “a lot” of discrimination say that businesses should be required to provide services for same-sex weddings. By contrast, most people who think gays and lesbians do not face a lot of discrimination say businesses should not have to provide services for same-sex weddings.

Topics: Gay Marriage and Homosexuality, African Americans

  1. Photo of Claire Gecewicz

    is a research analyst focusing on religion at Pew Research Center.

  2. Photo of Michael Lipka

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