March 30, 2015

Americans split over whether businesses must serve same-sex couples

Businesses, Same-Sex CouplesA new Indiana religious freedom law has sparked national debate since Gov. Mike Pence signed it last week. While its supporters say it strengthens protection of religious liberty, critics have argued that it could provide legal cover for businesses to discriminate, such as a florist or caterer who may not want to provide services for a same-sex wedding because of religious objections.

Several such cases already have been making their way through the courts, including one involving a bakery in Oregon. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from New Mexico photographers who were found guilty of discrimination after refusing to shoot a commitment ceremony for two women.

A Pew Research Center survey last year found a U.S. public divided over these types of issues. The survey asked Americans whether businesses that provide wedding services should be allowed to refuse service to same-sex couples on religious grounds, or whether they should be required to provide services. Roughly equal shares of U.S. adults answered the question each way, with 49% saying businesses should be required to serve same-sex weddings, and 47% saying businesses should be permitted to refuse service due to religious objections.

Whites (52%) are more likely than either blacks (36%) or Hispanics (35%) to say that businesses should be allowed to refuse services for same-sex weddings for religious reasons. There also is a significant generation gap on this issue. Most Americans ages 65 and older (60%) say that wedding-related businesses should be able to decline to provide services for same-sex weddings, while most adults under the age of 30 (62%) take the opposite view, saying that businesses should be required to provide services for same-sex weddings.

Wedding-Related Businesses, Same-Sex WeddingsMajor U.S. religious groups also disagree. A strong majority of white evangelical Protestants (71%) support businesses’ right to refuse service on religious grounds, while majorities of black Protestants (59%), Catholics (57%) and people with no religious affiliation (61%) say that wedding-related businesses should be required to serve all customers.

Republicans are about twice as likely as Democrats to say that businesses should be allowed to refuse service to same-sex couples (68% vs. 33%), with political independents in between the two parties (45%).

Indiana, where a court ruling made same-sex marriage legal last year, is not the only state to grapple with this issue. In fact, it is not the only state with such a law. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (via The Washington Post), Indiana is the 20th state – in addition to the federal government – to enact a similar Religious Freedom Restoration Act, although there is some debate about whether Indiana’s law is slightly different (and perhaps designed to apply more to businesses).

Arkansas may soon enact a similar law. Same-sex marriage is not currently legal in Arkansas, but the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments April 28 in a case that has the potential to bring gay marriage to all 50 states.

Topics: Gay Marriage and Homosexuality, Economic and Business News, Church-State Law

  1. Photo of Michael Lipka

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


  1. dalewkadavy2 years ago

    The owner of a business should be able to withhold service from
    anyone he chooses, whether for religious or any other reason.
    But its a stupid way to run a business.

  2. TF TF2 years ago

    Who would have thought that in the year 2015 Americans would be debating whether Marxism or Liberty should rule the day? The very foundation of the nation was about Religious freedom yet here we are. The fact that we are even having this debate doesn’t give me much hope that Americans will preserve Liberty. We were warned but we did not hear.

  3. Linda Johnson2 years ago

    This issue is the same as whether people had to serve black people in the south after Emancipation and before the laws of the 1960’s. As a person born in the 1930’s, I remember both things, and so I can draw the parallel.

    I have also listened to the arguments that “a majority” of the people (in this state or that state) agree that x, or y, or z is the proper way to run the world, in the case of gay people. This is also totally improproper. The United States I grew up in clearly stated that our form of government was the rule of the majority with full protection for the rights of the minority. Of course, those clear statements came during and in the wake of the Nazi persecutions of Jews, Catholics, Gypsies, and all other non blond, non blue eyed persons…

  4. dale kadavy2 years ago

    It seems like a businessman should be able to turn down anyone that
    he wants to, for any reason. After all, it’s his business, and if he wants
    to sacrifice profit, so be it.

    1. Shirley2 years ago

      I agree

  5. Frank Hyman2 years ago

    America is a rapidly deteriorating nation being run into the ground by religious nuts.

    1. Anonymous1 year ago

      This country was founded by religious nuts, so to say it is being run into the ground by them is almost an impossibility.

  6. KeepOnLearning2 years ago

    The stuffy “refuse to serve on moral reasons” stand is ridiculous on its face.

    Every day these same businesses gleefully trade goods and services for money from dope dealers, wife beaters, child abusers, embezzlers, adulterers, tax cheats, shoplifters, and compulsively lying salespeople.

    The only difference is that same-sex couples are open about a fact that might offend some shopkeepers’ morality, whereas all the rest are covert.

    Then compare how many people are harmed how much by a same-sex couple’s marriage, versus a dope dealer plying his trade.

    And you, prejudiced shopkeeper, want to refuse service to whooom?

    Please put up this sign on your shop window:
    “Let all whose private and personal lives may offend me please shop elsewhere!”

    1. Bruce MacDonald2 years ago

      KOL, Thanks!

    2. Todd Danza2 years ago

      “Every day these same businesses gleefully trade goods and services for money from dope dealers, wife beaters, child abusers, embezzlers, adulterers, tax cheats, shoplifters, and compulsively lying salespeople.”

      I think this argument falls apart when you consider that these business owners wouldn’t serve these people if they knew about their transgressions. Similarly, they would serve same-sex couples as long as they don’t know they’re serving same-sex couples. So you’ve drawn a false dichotomy there.

      Personally, I think people who refuse to serve same-sex couples generally are gutter trash, and I’m almost inclined to say they shouldn’t have the right to turn them away. Then I have to ask myself, what if I were, let’s say, a food service business and were being asked to cater to a K.lan rally. Would I feel the same way then?

      That’s when I start to see the logic of turning someone away on moral grounds.

  7. Bruce MacDonald2 years ago

    If you are doing business in the United States, then you are in business to do with Americans – all Americans.. As an American I believe that we should have laws to protect us from religion.

  8. Dan L2 years ago

    Nothing prevents people from practicing their religion now. If they feel that gay marriage violates their Christianity, then don’t marry somebody of the same sex. But catering a same sex marriage certainly does not violate somebody’s religious belief — it’s just plain bigotry in action. Remember, it wasn’t so long ago that bigots were asserting that their Christianity forbade interracial marriage and justified racial discrimination. That nice Jewish boy, Jesus, would be terribly upset with how the religion founded on his name has been turned upside down and inside out by the Evangelicals.

  9. Jackie2 years ago

    Isn’t it amazing that the polls were evenly split? What a coincidence!

  10. charles2 years ago

    How is it Americas disicion? The last time i looked America was still a county by the people for the people and off the people! Its the Busness mans choice

  11. mach372 years ago

    What has become of discreet public behavior in the US? How does a business know whether a group of customers is homosexual, or simply friends, except by flagrant or obnoxious behavior? Flagrantly public sexual behavior of any sort in a business establishment such as a restaurant should be grounds for refusing service; unnecessary disclosure of sexual orientation by a customer while arranging catering service also falls into the indiscreet category. Aggressively flaunting sexuality and flamboyant actions may not be legislated against, but lack of respect for the general public and strangers ought to be shunned in a civil and moral society.

    1. Attila B2 years ago

      Nice disingenuous straw man argument you’ve built up there. You want others to believe that the gay customer would be flaunting sexuality in public and attack them from that direction. The law is not about businesses refusing service to those who are flaunting sexuality. The law is about bigoted businesses refusing service to gay people, full stop.

      1. Tim2 years ago

        Wrong. The law is about tolerance and freedom for all, including those with a belief system you may not agree with. That works both ways; that’s what tolerance truly is. You have a view that I vehemently disagree with; and you equally disagree with mine. If I’m forced to violate my faith, that is not tolerance for my position. If you continue your life, but take your business down the street, that is tolerance because you weren’t forced to do anything.

      2. mach372 years ago

        Well, this business had not refused service to anyone; the owner answered a hypothetical question proposed by a reporter looking for bigotry where there was none.

  12. Teresa Trujillo2 years ago

    I think you needed to ask a question about the respondents religious beliefs as well. The issue is as much about practicing your religion in the village square as it is about the rights of same sex attraction couples.

    If my religious beliefs were not my guiding force in life, I would have no issue with providing anything to anyone. I wouldn’t care who I associated with and how those associations impacted my life. At one time in my life, that might have actually been how I lived my life. Today, and for the last few years, I know Jesus is my savior, and I follow God’s direction first.

    1. Eileen2 years ago

      God gave you free will. God made people gay. God wants all people to be free, loved and accepted. Free will is why Hitler killed the Jews and it’s why all murderers do what they do. You decide how to treat others, God does not, nor does the Bible.

      1. Jackie2 years ago

        And if I don’t believe in gay marriage then I shouldn’t have to make a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage or take photos. If I was a person in a same-sex relationship – why on earth would I want someone who is against same-sex marriage to take my photos? Why do they not respect someone else’s beliefs? Why do they have to shove it down someone’s throat? Because the law allows them to. That is my choice to make. I don’t like obummer, but I don’t badger and spew hatred at the people who do believe that he is a great president! That is their belief. So be it.

        1. Susan2 years ago

          Strange that such an advocate of ‘showing respect’ would use the term obummer instead of the name for a duly elected president. Apparently your respect only goes so far.

  13. don foster2 years ago

    Interesting – why anyone would even “survey” public opinion on this. Try the same survey but trade the phrase “same-sex couple” for interracial couple (after all, interracial marriages are in violation of parts of scripture, which commanded the Israelites not to engage in interracial marriage (Deuteronomy 7:3–4). Could a survey company even legally ask that, and if they could, would they not receive widespread public indignation for asking such a question. As interracial marriage is in contradiction to the Old Testament, why can’t the same people refuse service to interracial couples, based on their religious beliefs. No one would even consider justifying such action in defense of “religious freedom”, yet it seems okay to seek “public opinion” in deciding whether it is okay to discriminate against same-sex couples.

    1. mach372 years ago

      Chapter 7 of Deuteronomy sounds like something straight out of the Quran. It is one of the most violent chapters of the Old Testament. It is not a favorable argument for basing Christian pacifism.

    2. lozeerose2 years ago

      Deuteronomy 7:3–4 states “3 You shall not make marriages with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons. 4 For they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods; then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly.”

      This is not about interracial marriage but rather mixed marriages – those of different faith. Back in that day God was warning the Jews to enter into mixed marriages due to the likelihood that them or their offspring would lose their faith in the Gid of Abraham, Jacob and Isaac.

      The issue of refusing to participate in a public act one does not agree with on religious grounds – that can be proven of course- is guaranteed by the First Amendment and common sense. Any business has the right to refuse to conduct a transaction with home they choose as long as they do so within the law. A business owned by a person with same-sex attraction should not be expected to participate in a business transaction If, for example, someone wanted a bunch of fliers printed in opposition to Same-sex unions if that business owner is in support of them. The person seeking the fliers can conduct business elsewhere. On religious grounds, would a Jewish person be expected to print fliers in a Saturday because a customer wants them on that day? No, that person would need to find a business who will fulfill their order.

      Discrimination is not right but neither is forcing someone to violate their religious convictions.

    3. Tim2 years ago

      Just because you or others don’t understand Christian beliefs and doctrines does not eliminate their right to freely exercise their religion.
      I’m not going to begin to debate why the presented Deut. 7 understanding about interracial marriage is totally incorrect. (Moses had an interracial marriage, and God honored that and struck Moses’ own sister with leprosy because she spoke against it. Numbers 12)

    4. Thomas R2 years ago

      Some Orthodox Jews do oppose their members marrying outside the faith. (Although what you site seems to be about nations at war with Israel. It’s “a reach” to think it’s about racial ideas that might not have even existed yet so I’m going to give you “the benefit of the doubt” that you meant more “interfaith marriage” and “Orthodox Jews” even though you say things contrary to that.)

      Do Orthodox Jews have a right to refuse selling a cake to an interfaith marriage? I might say “yeah, of course” but I get that you don’t agree.

  14. L Swiss2 years ago

    I don’t see any reason whatsoever for this type of discriminatory legislation. Any customer (gay or otherwise) is simply asking to buy whatever product that the business professes to sell. It’s not like they’re asking for your first-born child ! What has happened to common sense, decency and respect for your fellow man? Or are those no longer Christian characteristics ?

    1. Tim2 years ago

      I fully support the law, yet I wish it was as you describe, Swiss.
      We are all sinners; it’s just that some have accepted that Christ paid for their sin on the cross which we celebrate this Easter season.
      Sinners need to eat; sinners need gas. In fact, forget need. Sinners want flowers; sinners want pictures taken. No problem with any of that whether the sinner buying is a Christian, non-Christian, or usually of unknown status.
      The thing is Christians don’t want to be forced into participating into another’s choice to sin. Should a Christian or any other photographer be forced to make porn? Everyone is zeroing in on one issue, but there is no specific issue addressed by the bill.
      The problem is that certain people of faith really have been forced to go against their belief or pay a fine or shut down. What about their freedom to exercise their religion? That seems to be getting lost in the clamor. Where is the tolerance for their belief? Whether you understand it and agree with it is not the issue because they don’t necessarily understand or agree with the people suing them.
      Because the handful of people who were declined by a business weren’t forced against their will to do anything. No one has made them change or is even remotely suggesting that they do. See, their belief and life practice is tolerated. The people of faith have not been; thus the need to correct that problem.

  15. dabble532 years ago

    If they want to discriminate on religious grounds, then they better discriminate against all sinners as defined by their religion…otherwise, it’s not really a religious reason, it’s just plain bigoted discrimination and it shouldn’t be condoned.
    Of course, that’ll likely leave them with only the holiest of holies being customers.
    Face it Indiana, you’re a state of bigots.

  16. Ed Petruik2 years ago

    Let’s suppose you go to a caterer to have a Sunday gathering serviced. You ask for: baked ham, shrimp cocktails, oysters Rockerfella and steamed clams on the menu. Your caterer says no problem. Then you mention that it’s an LGBT affair. All of a sudden your caterer says his Christian values won’t allow him to service Gays. What a hypocrite. He’ll serve pork and she’ll fish, He’ll do it on a sabbath (all biblical no-nos) but he won’t serve Gays.

    Religious freedom my ass. What about Muslims who stone people to death for minor digretions. What about Satanist who feel the need to sacrafice for their religion.

    Let’s get real here. Let them practice whatever religion as long as they don’t impose their beliefs on any body else.

  17. Ken Williams2 years ago

    That data is outdated and irrelevant. Ask the question TODAY.

  18. David2 years ago

    Corporations are entities which derive their [often excessive] rights from charters granted by a government — that is, the people. Once these rights have been conferred by society, if the corporations do not wish to serve everyone in that society, their charters should be revoked.

    1. Melinda Lockwood2 years ago

      Their charters should be revoked? Let the market decide. If you go to a business and they don’t want to serve you because your have too many piercings, if they don’t want to serve you because you are not wearing shoes, if they don’t want to serve you because they don’t like the color of your hair – don’t shop there. This is much ado about nothing and is politically driven. It is a waste of everyone’s time.

  19. Dawn Offtime2 years ago

    There was a time when the word “discriminate” was a virtue, that people knew how to tell good things from not-so-good things, like salad forks, whether your cummerbund was right side up or not … and whether you would continence moral behavior or not. Today, it has become a malign term, which is a shame. Lately, we’ve seen a rush to embrace all things gay. It is the new fashion. I suspect even gay people are stunned by the “change” (a word that implies “virtue,” but in fact may not be). But in vast swathes of our country, the religious mores and traditions have not changed so much, nor should they. For gays and others, I would counsel them that to purposely affront the religious views and feelings of the people in a community is ill-considered and offensive. Some communities consider that spitting on the sidewalk, urinating in public, or loud disruptive music to be offensive, and outlaw it. Some hold strong religious views about right and wrong, about abortion, homosexuality, and perhaps even murder, robbery and rape. For many, these are equivalencies. The winds of political change are irrelevant to them, nor should they be. Wouldn’t you say that tolerance is a two-way street? That simple consideration of local religious views are at least as valid as your own attempt to thrust (emphasis intended) your sexual proclivities into other people’s faces?

    1. Davey Schmidt2 years ago

      I find you offensive.

    2. Monirom Southakakoumar2 years ago

      Discriminate has two definitions, the first allows for differentiation and has nothing to do with “taste” or “virtue” and that one is not what is meant when it used in the context of discriminating against an individual or entity.

      The second can’t even be considered tasteful or virtuous:
      make an unjust or prejudicial distinction in the treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, sex, or age.
      “existing employment policies discriminate against women”
      synonyms: be biased against, be prejudiced against; treat differently,

      1. Jerry Van Aken2 years ago

        I agree with you in the use of the term, discrimination. It is the same with the use of race or racism. It is only derogatory in the context it is use. It is not discrimination unless that is the context.

    3. Jackson Euler2 years ago

      Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (I Timothy 2:11-14)

      Please have your father, brother or husband (if you’re been married off already) and then have them come back and post as you have no authority to instruct me (or any men on this site), per the Bible.