It turns out gay marriage isn’t a priority for all gay Americans

If you were only privy to popular American media or culture, you could be forgiven for thinking that same-sex marriage is both a singularly pressing issue for most Americans and universally popular among gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered (LGBT). In both assumptions, you would be wrong.

According to Pew Research Center data collected in 2013, perceptions about the gay marriage debate among LGBT Americans is far more nuanced than popular culture concedes. While only 7 percent of LGBT Americans oppose the right of all gays and lesbians to marry legally, 18 percent favor same-sex marriage but don’t have a strong opinion on the matter.

The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake has more:

Opposition to gay marriage in the LGBT community, such as it exists, is driven by three groups: LGBT blacks, LGBT Republicans, and bisexual Americans.

While 12 percent of the black LGBT community opposed gay marriage, nearly one in five (19 percent) Republicans did, too. Only 45 percent of LGBT Republicans said they strongly favored gay marriage — the lowest of any group. Fifty-eight percent of LGBT blacks said they strongly favor it.

And the bisexual community was more likely to oppose (8 percent) or not feel strongly about gay marriage (22 percent), compared with gay men and women. Bisexuals comprise 40 percent of the LGBT community — larger than both gay men and lesbians.

Most interestingly, nearly four-in-ten LGBT Americans think the gay marriage issue has sidelined other matters that are of more importance to the gay and lesbian community. Pew noted, however, that there is a significant partisan gap here. “Again, there is a partisan split among LGBT adults: A smaller share of Republicans (38%) said same-sex marriage should be a top priority compared with 64% of Democrats,” Pew’s write-up read.

Pew also observed that LGBT Americans’ opinions on the issue of same-sex marriage vary greatly across the generations and among those with religious affiliations.

Although a large majority of religious LGBT Americans said they strongly favor same-sex marriage, the share who said so is lower than among those without a religious affiliation. Among the religiously affiliated, 67% strongly favor same-sex marriage, compared with 82% of the religiously unaffiliated.

Young LGBT adults are more likely to “strongly favor” same-sex marriage than their older counterparts: 82% of those ages 18 to 29 said so, compared with 71% of those 30 or older. Despite these differences, overall support for same-sex marriage remains strong: Across all age groups and regardless of religious affiliation, at least nine-in-ten LGBT adults strongly favor or favor same-sex marriage.

Finally, there is a fascinating dispute within the gay community about the best course of action to “achieve equality.” 49 percent of LGBT community members believe that maintaining a distinct gay and lesbian culture is the most effective course of action while another 49 percent say integrating into mainstream American culture would be the most efficient approach.

It should also be noted that these responses may already be dated. The speed with which the American public has evolved from generally leery of gay marriage to largely supportive of it has been stunning. It is likely that opinions on the matter within the LGBT community have also evolved with similar alacrity. And, if opinions have changed in the intervening months since this data was collected, all that evolution would likely be in one direction.

That caveat aside, this is an interesting window into how average LGBT Americans actually think.