It's one thing to ask Americans if they believe that gay marriage should be legal, but it's an entirely different matter to ask if acting out on same-sex attraction is sinful. With opinions continuously evolving on the matter, it seems the public has become more accepting of same-sex unions -- but what about the purported moral issues associated with homosexuality?
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LifeWay Research conducted a survey back in November -- the results of which were released on Thursday. The organization asked respondents, "Do you believe homosexual behavior is a sin?" Forty-five percent of the American public said that it is not, with 37 percent answering affirmatively, and an additional 17 percent saying that it did not know which side to select.
These findings paint a starkly different picture when compared to the results from the same question that was asked by LifeWay in its 2011 survey. At that point, 44 percent believed that homosexuality was sinful and 43 did not, with an additional 13 percent stating that they were unsure.
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Naturally, one of the big questions surrounds why such a major change was observed in just a year's time. According to Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, President Barack Obama's change-of-heart on gay marriage in the middle of the 2012 election cycle may have played a role in overall societal change.
"The president’s evolution on homosexuality probably impacted the evolution of cultural values – there is a real and substantive shift, surprisingly large for a one-year time-frame – though this was hardly a normal year on this issue," Stetzer noted in a press release advertising the organization's results.
Born-again Christians and evangelicals (73 percent) and those who attend church at least once per week (61 percent) were found in the 2012 results to be most likely to believe that homosexuality is a sin. Also, those residing in the South were also more likely to answer "yes." Among Americans who never attend church, 71 percent do not believe that gay behaviors are sinful.
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When it comes to the legality of gay marriage, the nation also seems to be changing its views. In May 2012, just days before Obama made his endorsement of gay marriage, 50 percent of the public told Gallup they supported same-sex marriage, with 48 percent saying they did not.
Another poll conducted by CBS News well after the president's proclamation found that 51 percent agreed with gay marriage, with 40 percent claiming that they did not. With demographics changing and with perceptions transitioning, there's no telling what the 2013 data will look like.