Metro Weekly

Most Americans support LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws, but trans rights continue to divide

Support for transgender youth participating in sports according to their gender identity has declined across the political spectrum

lgbtq, trans, transgender, support
Credit: Ted Eytan / Flickr

The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) reports that while the majority of Americans generally favor pro-LGBTQ policies, support wanes on specifics like transgender sports and bathroom accommodations.

The vast majority of Americans (82%) support laws that protect LGBTQ people from housing, jobs and public accommodations, marking an increase by 10 percentage points from 2015.

PRRI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that investigates the intersection of religion, culture, and public policy. On Friday, the group released the results of interviews with nearly 5,500 adults conducted in August:

Religiously Based Refusals to Serve LGBTQ People

Almost two-thirds (63%) of Americans oppose allowing religiously based refusals to serve LGBTQ people, with only 36% of Americans supporting them.

White evangelical Protestants are the least likely major religious group to favor nondiscrimination laws, and the only major religious group in which the majority supports religiously based refusals.

While white evangelical Protestants’ support for nondiscrimination laws rose from 60% to 66% since 2015, their support for religiously based service refusals rose from 54% to 62%. Less than half of all other religious groups favor religiously based service refusals.

Transgender Students and High School Athletes

Support for transgender students being allowed to participate in high school athletes has decreased since 2018 across the political spectrum, though with partisan gaps.

Marking a decrease from 61% in 2018, less than half (46%) of Americans favor or strongly favor transgender boys being allowed to participate with cisgender male students in high school sports. Support for this position from Republicans (37%) and independents (63%) has fallen by nearly 20 percentage points since 2018, while Democrats’ (68%) support has fallen by six percentage points.

Worse, marking a decrease from 50% in 2018, about one-third (36%) of Americans believe that transgender girls should be allowed to participate with cisgender female students in high school sports. Since 2018, support for this position from Republicans (9%) has fallen by more than two-thirds, from independents (30%) by one-third, and from Democrats (62%) by 11 percentage points.

Republicans and independents’ positions on this topic vary by media consumption.

Bathroom Accommodations

Americans continue to be divided over policies that would require transgender people to use bathrooms consistent with their sex assigned at birth (47% favor, 50% oppose), similar to 2019 rates (45% favor, 47% oppose). 

Compared to 2016, support for restrictive bathroom policies is considerably higher among Republicans and independents, support increasing from 44% to 74% for Republicans, from 37% to 48% for independents and from 27% to 31% for Democrats. Support has also risen notably from white Christian groups; religiously unaffiliated Americans are the only religious group whose views have not changed significantly.

PRRI also examined Americans’ beliefs about gender identity; comfort levels with transgender people; perceptions of discrimination against LGBTQ people and personal relationships with LGBTQ people.

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