UA Little Rock researchers investigate if religion predicts attitudes toward LGBQ, marriage equality

University of Arkansas at Little Rock researchers are investigating the attitudes of Muslims toward homosexuality and marriage equality.

Drs. Robert Lytle and Tusty ten Bensel, professors of criminal justice at UA Little Rock, and Tabrina Bratton, a criminal justice doctoral student, recently published their study, “Attitudes of Muslim Americans toward Homosexuality and Marriage Equality: Moving Beyond Simply Understanding Christian Public Opinions,” in the academic journal Sociological Inquiry.

Much research has been done that shows a relationship between a person’s religious affiliation and attitude toward LGBQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Questioning) individuals. Since these studies have largely focused on Christians, the researchers wanted to see if religiosity and fundamentalism were significant predictors of attitudes toward homosexuality and same-sex marriage in other major religious populations in the U.S.

“Most people look at Christian attitudes toward the LGBTQ population, so we explored Christian attitudes in comparison to Muslims and Jews, two large religious groups that have largely been ignored in this area,” Bratton said.

Like Christian religiosity and fundamentalism, religious salience (the relative importance of religion in an individual’s personal life) predicted less accepting attitudes toward homosexuality and opposition to same-sex marriage among Jewish and Muslim respondents.

“One explanation for these findings might be that more conservative denominations are less accepting of outgroups and deviations from religious doctrine,” Bratton said. “Denominations that adhere to more rigid, traditional attitudes about sexuality may be more likely to identify homosexuality as deviant, event to the degree of being considered a sin.”

The researchers found that Muslim and Protestant participants were the least accepting of homosexuality and least supportive of same-sex marriage compared with Roman Catholic and Jewish participants.

This finding did not surprise the researchers. Islam is a conservative religion, and religious conservatism, along with fundamentalism and religiosity, were significant predictors of attitudes toward homosexuality and marriage equality for all respondents, regardless of religious affiliation.

“When people aren’t heavily fundamentalist, it doesn’t matter what religion they are. They generally support same-sex marriage,” Lytle said. “When you get to people with higher levels of fundamentalism and religious conservatism, you see much less support for same-sex marriage and acceptance of homosexuality.

While Catholics and Jews, for example, are very similar in their religious beliefs, more conservative Jews at higher levels of fundamentalism have similar beliefs as Muslims and Protestants on these issues. At low levels of fundamentalism, Jews were the most supportive denomination regarding acceptance of homosexuality and marriage equality”

Catholics and Jews were different in their agreement that homosexuality should be accepted in society, yet statistically similar in support for marriage equality. Catholics are more likely to accept homosexuality, while Jews are more likely to support marriage equality. Catholics and Jews are still more tolerant of both subjects than Protestants and Muslims.

Data for the study came from the 2014 Religious Landscape Study, a public opinion dataset that contained responses from 475 Jews and 135 Muslims. Attitudes were compared against responses from Catholics and Protestants.

The researchers hope that this study will also call attention to the low number of Muslim respondents in public opinion datasets, which makes it difficult to research opinions in the Muslim community.

“The article calls for public opinion datasets to include a larger population of Muslim responses,” Lytle said. “Islam is one of the fastest growing religious populations in the country. There is a growing need for us to understand the political and social attitudes of this population.”

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