Logics of Freedom: Debating Religious Freedom Laws and Gay and Lesbian Rights
Socius Sociological Research for a Dynamic World
In the wake of marriage equality for same-sex couples, many states have introduced and passed laws that provide religious exemptions for certain services and benefits for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) persons. The authors use data from a general population survey of Nebraskans as a mixed-methods case study to examine public opinion of religious freedom laws. Drawing on data from both closed-ended (n = 1,117) and openended (n = 838) questions, the authors show that
... tion to religious freedom laws is quite high, as 64 percent of respondents report that they oppose laws that would allow business owners to deny services to gay men and lesbians. The authors outline how both sides rely on frameworks that are foundational to the American experience: the protection of rights and the capitalist economy. The authors argue that these appeals to broad American values underscore why these bills will continue to be introduced and seen as controversial despite low levels of support. 1 We use the term LGBTQ when discussing religious freedom legislation to reflect the fact that these bills affect a range of nonheterosexual or nonbinary individuals. Given that the question from the survey data we analyze refers to "gay men or lesbians," we use the phrase "gay men and lesbians" when discussing our findings. 2 The American Civil Liberties Union defines pro-LGBT bills as legislation that offers comprehensive or incomplete protection from discrimination for sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It identifies anti-LGBT bills as antitransgender (regulating single-sex facility restrooms, identification documents, health care, and other); First Amendment defense acts; religious freedom restoration acts; religious exemptions related to health care access, adoption and foster care, marriage-related exemptions, and other; and preventive measures against nondiscrimination protection for LGBTQ people.