Marriage Equality Succeeds In States Where Religion Matters Less

Ever wonder why marriage equality tends to cluster in certain regions, like the Northeast? It’s not just that the South is more conservative. The main factor may be religious belief.

The fact is that marriage equality has been much more likely to succeed in parts of the country where people are less likely to belong to an organized religion or to attend services regularly.

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has extensively studied faith in the U.S., mapping levels of belief on a state-by-state basis.

The least religious part of the country is New England. In Vermont, for example, only 36 percent of the population rate religion as very important in their lives, a full 20 percentage points lower than the rest of the country (and 46 percentage points below pious Mississippi). No surprise that all six New England states allow same-sex marriages.

New York has similar characteristics, as does Washington State. Things are a little more mixed in Maryland and Delaware, where the population more closely reflects the national average. However, evangelical Protestants are underrepresented in those states, where people who say that have no religious affiliation is slightly higher.

Of course, once your neighbor does something, you’re more likely to try to keep up with him. Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee explicitly cited that reason as an economic imperative for his state to approve marriage equality. But if you aren’t religiously inclined, you will see marriage as a civil ceremony, not a matter of doctrine that can never be changed.

The good news for the long-term success of marriage equality is that young people are even less likely to be affiliated with a particular belief. In fact, one-third of people under the age of 30 say that they don’t belong to any particular denomination. That’s not to say that they don’t believe in God, but it also means that they aren’t taking their marching orders from the pulpit.

Believers may look at those figures and feel that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. Of course, the other way to look at it is that mainstream religions are so out of touch with modern society that they no longer speak to the young. In either case, the trend is only accelerating, and the change will continue to benefit the LGBT cause.

Just don’t count on marriage equality in Mississippi any time soon.

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  • Dionte

    Once everyone comes to grip with the fact that they’ve been had by religions and move past it, the world will be a better place.

  • ted72

    @Dionte: Let’s all join hands with Richard Dawkins (world renowned atheist).

    I agree with you Dionte

  • QJ201

    And coincidentally the highly religious states (with the exception of Mormon land) are poorer, do a crappy job with public education and have higher rates of teen pregnancy, etc. etc.

  • 2eo

    It all comes back to the obvious fact that the religious are less educated and less able to function in the world and be productive. They spend too much time hating instead of living, and preaching instead of loving.

    @QJ201: It isn’t a coincidence, it is direct absolute correlation.

  • tdx3fan

    @2eo: Please do not speak purely from ignorance. There are PLENTY of well educated religious people. The biggest difference is that they are more likely to be part of a religion that focuses on helping other than judging. For example, the Episcopalian Church is filled with vastly educated people, where as the Southern Baptist in most cases is not.

  • 2eo

    @tdx3fan: Experience and statistics say otherwise. I know with whom I have “faith” in, the numbers are the only thing that matters, my assessment of the situation is correct the world over.

    There are outliers, and sadly very few.

  • singforfood

    Less religiously zealous states tend to be cooler on gay rights… In related news, the sky is also blue.

  • ChuckGG

    @tdx3fan: I see your point, but I would also like to state that I suspect those who are better educated do not tend to take the bible and religion in general as literal absolutes such as you see in the Southern Evangelical/Fundamentalist movements. It is therefore not surprising SSM is better accepted.

    I asked some very intelligent Catholic friends why they still attend services. The answer was habit, social interaction with friends, and camaraderie. However, they reminded me that they take what the priest says with a grain of salt. Yes, some interesting moral lessons and all that, but they are not into the whole “hocus pocus” part of religion. While the Catholic church is against contraception, recent statistics discovered that 98% of the laity use, or have used, artificial (vs. approved withdrawal and rhythm methods) birth control methods. That shows the disconnect between the church and reality.

    Furthermore, the number of young people at these churches has dwindled dramatically. Most of the laity is gray-haired. That cannot bode well for the church.

  • jmmartin

    @tdx3fan: I agree with you that well-educated people believe in God, a delusion that is drummed into our heads when we are small and then reinforced by social integration and interaction. It is hypocritical to condemn gays while your organization harbors pedophile priests, the Vatican sweeping the scandals under the carpet, sending recidivist clerics to comfy rehab, then reassigning them to other parishes for repeat performances. Even the liberal affiliations are phony from the git-go. Our local, well-heeled Episcopal church, nicknamed by one wag as “the Church of the Good Cadillacs,” has a congregation that mouths meaningless mumbo jumbo Sunday after Sunday after Sunday, then pushes through the crown on the front steps, lawyers ex-partying federal judges, deacon hopefuls sniffing up the arses of those already invested for fear of the black ball, and social climbers from the lower middle class trying to curry the favor of potential employers. Those who claim they are there to worship God are kidding themselves. There is no god but Man.

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