Last year, the Public Religion Research Institute asked Americans if they felt religious liberty was being threatened in America today, and a majority (54 percent) said they felt it was. Nonetheless, 80 percent of their respondents said that a business owner should not be able “be able to refuse services on religious grounds to individuals who happen to be gay or lesbian.”
Pew Research Center found something that, at first glance, seems very different. Asking instead if a wedding services business should be “allowed to refuse” or “required to provide” services at a same-sex marriage, voters are far more split, with only 49 percent saying the business should be “required to provide.”
The distinction in question wording is two-fold. The first question is about discrimination in the provision of services generally, while the second question more narrowly focuses on wedding services, which are far more obviously linked to religion than the mere act of serving up a slice of pepperoni. Second, the Pew question notes that the business owner would be “required to provide” services, introducing the idea that the business owner would be compelled to do something they presumably don’t want to.
When the question moves further from generally providing service to all and into the more narrow questions about marriage ceremonies, requirements, and punishments, public opinion swings even further into Memories Pizza’s court. Take another poll, conducted by Marist just a few weeks ago, which showed 65 percent of respondents opposing fines for wedding vendors who decline to provide services. This may seem like splitting hairs to some, but is actually illustrative of the way that many Americans look at the issue.