Study finds millennials more likely to support LGBT rights

By Emily Gurchiek, Gabrielle Chevalier, Chattanooga, TN—A survey by the Pew Research Center found a record-high support for same-sex marriage from those born

Screen shot of Pew 2013 same-sex marriage study chart Same-sex support: The chart above, based on Pew research results from the 2013 study, depicts same-sex marriage support based on religious affiliation. However, the study also found millennials support equal rights, despite religious marriage objections.
Screen shot of Pew 2013 same-sex marriage study chart
Same-sex support: The chart above, based on Pew research results from the 2013 study, depicts same-sex marriage support based on religious affiliation. However, the study also found millennials support equal rights, despite religious marriage objections.

since 1980.

The Pew Research Center conducted multiple surveys about the support of same-sex marriage. The results showed an overall increase of support for not only same-sex marriage but also LGBT marriage rights.

Millenials, or those born since 1980, are said to be “more than twice as likely to support same-sex marriage” as other generations, according to the Pew Research Center poll.

Marcia Noe, the University’s women’s studies department head, said this result did not surprise her, because the newest generation has been more exposed to gay people and relationships through mass media.

She said she believes the millennial generation sees gay people “as part of the spectrum of normal human behavior rather than as an aberration or a joke.”

Steven Palmer, the social issues, equity and diversity chair of SGA, agreed that the results of the recent poll did not surprise him.

He said he thinks technological advancements and social media have a lot to do with the growing support, especially from the youngest generation.

Palmer said he also thinks America is on its way to taking the Constitution’s Establishment Clause seriously, and the millennial generation is at the backbone of this movement.

The clause, which is a part of the Constitution’s First Amendment, states that congress will not make laws based upon religion.

The clause has been interpreted to mean that the government should not show preference to one religion’s beliefs over another, and that religious beliefs should remain separate from government decisions, Palmer said.

“We are a generation that understands the need for a separation of church and state,” he said.

The Pew Research Center also found that a person with a college education is more likely to think same-sex couples should have the same legal rights as straight couples.

Noe said she believes this is an accurate result showing the changing views of millennials.

Lauren Clayton, a Nashville senior, said she identifies partially with the information in the Pew research results.

Because of her personal religious beliefs, Clayton said she is not a proponent of same-sex marriage.

“I feel that there is a legitimate reason why God put man and woman together for marriage … To take marriage and make it something other than what God meant for it to be is not really a marriage, it’s a legal union,” she said.

However, Clayton said while her beliefs do not support marriage between same-sex couples, she does believe those couples should be afforded equal opportunities to health care and other government benefits.

Alisha Etheridge, a Nashville senior, echoed Clayton’s statements on both religious beliefs and how to incorporate them with a right to equality for all.

Etheridge said she understands and believes people deserve equal rights and access to benefits, regardless of sexual orientation. But personally, she said, her religious beliefs do not support marriage between same-sex couples.

Palmer, who identifies himself as gay, said he believes what Clayton and Etheridge define as marriage is the concept of holy matrimony.

He said the religious ceremony which joins two people together can be defined differently than what the government requires to recognize a union between two people.

“Marriage is a joining of people under the state,” he said. “It guarantees equal protection…It is a guarantee of certain legal status which includes certain legal rights such as health care, the right to joint status for child care, fallen veterans benefits, etcetera. I ask people to recognize this difference.”

Noe said she thinks the overall Pew study shows the ways in which a college education can expose people to an outside world and can give a different perspective on life.

Graduates can admit that others have different opinions and are trained listen to all perspectives, so they “may be more inclined to be more accepting of people who hold different views than we do,” Noe said.

Palmer said one example of this is the growth in support for the University’s gay-straight alliance, Spectrum.

Through the University’s support and participation in SGA, Palmer said his experiences have helped him find his own opinions and made him feel comfortable with the person he has become.

“It has allowed me to embrace my sexuality and to meet other individuals at UTC who identify in the same manner,” Palmer said.

He said he believes UTC is the most diverse campus in the UT system, and said he has heard others say the same.

“We have a thriving Multicultural Center and an extremely competent Office of Equity and Diversity,” Palmer said. “I have never felt uncomfortable at UTC due to my sexuality, but if I ever did, I am aware of individuals and departments here who are ready to face such challenges.”

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