Same-sex marriage and Calif. Catholics

Does your view of God color your stance on same-sex marriage? A new poll of Californians says, yes it does -- and shows many Catholics in this state much more supportive of the issue than evangelicals are.

Last year, California voters passed the controversial Proposition 8, which outlawed gay marriage in the state. The measure received strong support from the church and church-related groups like the Knights of Columbus.

But a new poll out this week from the non-partisan Public Religion Research Institute discovers a shift in opinion since that vote. And, according to researcher Robert Jones of the PRRI, "the religious community itself is clearly split."

The biggest gap is among Latinos: the poll found that 57 percent of Latino Catholics would now vote for same-sex marriage, compared to only 22 percent of Latino Protestants (most of whom tend be part of evangelical churches as opposed to mainline Protestant denominations).

That Catholic-Protestant divide carries throughout the poll, and is clear across a range of gay issues, from gays in the military to same-gender couples and adoption.

Why? To get at that, Jones and his team asked poll respondents questions about their view of God. And, he says, people who view God more as an impersonal force who cannot be fully understood (such as Catholics and mainstream Protestants) were more supportive of gay rights: the sense among these believers was they had to make the call on their own, and intrepret what a God full of "mystery" would want.

But the more "personal" God of evangelicals was different. At their core is the sense that God communicated to you directly, and that the Bible was literal. This lead many to believe God made it clear that gay marriage was wrong.

It's a striking situation. Again, Prop 8 was vigorously opposed by the church -- but in the pews, the reaction and reconsideration has been far different. All those Catholics taught to think for themselves and examine their own consciences ... seem to be doing just.

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