Abstract Arguments opposing same-sex marriage are often made on religious grounds. In Studies 1 and 2, we discovered that the relationship between religiosity and opposition to same-sex marriage was mediated by explicit sexual prejudice.
In Study 3, we saw that the mediating effect of sexual prejudice was linked to political conservatism. Finally, in Studies 4a and 4b we examined the ideological underpinnings of religious opposition to same-sex marriage in more detail by taking into account two distinct aspects of conservative ideology.
Results revealed that resistance to change was more important than opposition to equality in explaining religious opposition to same-sex marriage.
Arguments opposing same-sex marriage are often made on religious grounds. In the current research program, we investigated whether religious opposition to same-sex marriage has ideological roots in the desire to maintain the societal status quo. Hodges, , resistance lingers in the United States and elsewhere. Therefore, the psychological processes underlying religious and ideological opposition to same-sex marriage are of considerable theoretical and practical interest.
Specifically, we examine a model in which religious opposition to same-sex marriage is, at least in part, accounted for by sexual prejudice and motivated by conservative tendencies to defend the status quo.
In five studies conducted in Canada and the United States, we investigated the hypotheses that religiosity would be related to opposition to same-sex marriage through sexual prejudice Hypothesis 1 , and that these effects would be explained, at least in part, by endorsement of conservative ideology Hypothesis 2 , with resistance to change being a more important factor than opposition to equality Hypothesis 3.
Religiosity and the Same-Sex Marriage Debate Since , the Gallup organization has tracked opinions about whether marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized by the law.
Despite a general increase in support, many religious groups have actively opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States. Christian arguments against same-sex marriage tend to be based upon Biblical passages such as those discussing the fate of Sodom Genesis Much as some religious groups played a key role in the civil rights movement, there are denominations that now support full legal and religious marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples.
The United Church of Christ is one example. In arguing for marriage equality, they refer to the Christian values of love, peace, and compassion. For example, the more importance people ascribe to religion in their lives, the more likely they are to oppose same-sex marriage Jones, Gallup data from revealed that individuals who attended church on a weekly basis were more likely to be against recognition of same-sex marriage than people who attended less often or never Newport, Furthermore, those who opposed legalization of same-sex marriage were especially likely to justify their position on the basis of religious belief or interpretations of the Bible Newport, As federal legalization of same-sex marriage became increasingly probable in the United States, the debate on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender LGBT rights shifted from a focus on discrimination by the government to discrimination by the private sector Johnson, , with religious arguments dominating the rhetoric of those opposing same-sex marriage.
New York legalized same-sex marriage in but not before special provisions were made for religious protections within the text of the law. These protections were intended to make it clear that the bill does not require anyone to perform or solemnize marriages against their will.
Statements such as these make an explicit connection between religiosity and opposition to same-sex marriage, and they demonstrate the deeply personal manner in which the issue is played out. Sexual Prejudice as a Mediator of Religious Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage Whereas religious opponents may see their objections to same-sex marriage as principled and legitimate, others see it as a human rights issue and may interpret opposition as a form of sexual prejudice and discrimination.
Empirically speaking, religious opposition to same-sex marriage could stem from various sources. Given that religion offers believers a well-defined moral framework that entails specific attitudes toward social groups, beliefs, and behaviors, it is possible that attitudes toward same-sex marriage simply reflect religious proscriptions. On the other hand, opposition may also be driven by sexual prejudice, which is defined as antipathy toward individuals and groups based on their sexual orientation Herek, An initial aim of this research program was to investigate whether a general aversion to gay men and lesbian women helps explain the relationship between religiosity and opposition to same-sex marriage.
To our knowledge, however, no studies have investigated the hypothesis that religious opposition to same-sex marriage is attributable, at least in part, to sexual prejudice Hypothesis 1. Analyzing 20 years of data from the General Social Survey, Sherkat and colleagues observed that political conservatives and those who identified with the Republican Party were more resistant to same-sex marriage than other Americans.
The increase from previous years was driven more or less exclusively by Democrats and Independents; the views of Republicans did not change Newport, Therefore, a second aim of our research was to investigate whether the effect of religiosity on opposition to same-sex marriage would be mediated by the endorsement of conservative ideology.
Because previous research has demonstrated a robust connection between political conservatism and system justification Jost et al. Core Aspects of Conservative Ideology According to a prominent model of political ideology, the two core aspects of conservatism are resistance to change and opposition to equality Jost, ; Jost et al.
Ideological self-placement on a single left—right dimension is correlated with prejudice toward nonnormative groups, such as gay men and lesbian women e.
Nevertheless, somewhat distinct processes are thought to underlie resistance to change and opposition to equality. Right-wing authoritarianism Altemeyer, —which taps into resistance to change Jost et al. The link between religiosity and resistance to change is fairly evident, insofar as religions tend to value traditionalism and maintenance of the societal status quo i.
At the same time, religious doctrine emphasizes values such as compassion and tolerance, which seem more consistent with supporting marriage equality than opposing it.
Therefore, we anticipated that resistance to change might be more important than opposition to equality in accounting for the positive association between religiosity and opposition to same-sex marriage. Thus, we reasoned that resistance to change would be a stronger mediator of the effect of religiosity on opposition to same-sex marriage, in comparison with opposition to equality Hypothesis 3.
Overview of Studies In this research program, we sought to elucidate the effects of religiosity, political conservatism, and sexual prejudice in accounting for opposition to same-sex marriage.
To do this, we needed to establish that religiosity is indeed positively related to opposition to same-sex marriage, and to understand the extent to which this relationship is explained by sexual prejudice. Therefore, in Studies 1 and 2, we addressed the question of whether the effect of religiosity on opposition to same-sex marriage is mediated by sexual prejudice.
In Study 3, we more closely examined the ideological underpinnings of these effects, and investigated whether preferences for the status quo i. In Studies 4a and 4b, we distinguished between the two core components of conservative ideology, resistance to change and opposition to equality, and tested whether the effect of the former is stronger than that of the latter. Some of the direct relationships among these variables have been explored in prior studies, but our work contributes significantly to the psychological literature by investigating these variables simultaneously in an integrated theoretical model that enables us to explore indirect relationships as well.
In Study 1, we conducted a bootstrapping analysis for simple mediation models Hayes, , Model 4 ; in Study 2, we conducted a bootstrapping analysis for parallel multiple mediation models Hayes, , Model 4 ; and in Studies 3, 4a, and 4b we conducted a bootstrapping analysis for serial multiple mediation models Hayes, , Model 6.
It is important to note that, given the observational nature of our research, it is impossible to infer causality. Comparing our model with an alternative in which the order of variables is altered does not provide strong evidence that one model should be preferred over the other Thoemmes, Nevertheless, at the request of journal reviewers, we provide the results of plausible alternative models in an online supplement. This assumption is in line with existing theory and research as well as common sense.
We hasten to add, in any case, that it is empirically possible for our mediation hypotheses to be contradicted by the data. Participants indicated their agreement with eight statements on a scale ranging from 1 strongly disagree to 7 strongly agree. This subscale did not include any items related to same-sex marriage. To investigate our first hypothesis—that sexual prejudice would mediate the effect of religiosity on opposition to same-sex marriage—we conducted a mediation analysis see Table B in the online supplement for regression estimates.
As depicted in Figure 1 , religiosity indirectly influenced opposition to same-sex marriage through its effect on sexual prejudice. These findings support the first hypothesis.