Third Way and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), two Washington D.C.-based organizations who were heavily involved in crafting the strategy and messaging behind the recent surge in support for allowing gay couples to marry, have joined forces to tackle the movement's next debate: overly broad religious exemptions to marriage and non-discrimination laws.
Together with Anzalone Liszt Grove, Third Way and HRC fielded a national poll in June to identify where the country stood on marriage, non-discrimination laws, and religious liberty exemptions, including ones that would allow service providers like restaurant owners, florists, photographers, and wedding cake-bakers to turn away gay couples. The results, according to David Stacy, Deputy Legislative Director at the Human Rights Campaign, clearly demonstrate that "Americans believe our laws already adequately balance religious liberty and non-discrimination." He continued, "As marriage spreads nationwide, Americans are opposed to passing broad exemptions to current law that would legalize discrimination against LGBT people."
Noteworthy findings include:
56% of Americans think that it is illegal for business owners in their state to refuse service to someone because he or she is gaybut 30% of all respondents were incorrect and in fact live in states where that discrimination is still legal.
69% of Americans believe that government employees should NOT be able to refuse service to gay couples.
69% of Americans believe that businesses should NOT be able to refuse service to a gay person.
67% of Americans oppose a law that would allow businesses or organizations to deny services to gay and lesbian couples based on religious objections, and 64% would oppose a similar exemption limited only to small businesses providing wedding-related services.
57% of Americans believe that a business providing services like flowers or food for a gay couple's wedding is simply fulfilling a contract for services, not showing a public endorsement of that marriage.
Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, Director of the Social Policy & Politics Program at Third Way, explained, "Protecting religious liberty is an important American value, and voters in the middle believe we can respect it while also following laws which treat gay couples equally." She observed, "It all comes down to the Golden Rule, treating others as we ourselves would want to be treated. Americans know it's wrong to make laws that go against that principle."