WASHINGTON - A majority of U.S. Catholics support legal rights for gays and lesbians, a newly released report indicated.
The Public Religion Research Institute said Catholics are more likely than Protestants to criticize the way their church deals with homosexuals. Less than 40 percent gave the Catholic Church either an A or B on the issue, while majorities of Protestants support their churches.
"It may come as a surprise to many that rank and file Catholics are more supportive of rights for gays and lesbians than other Christians and the public," said Robert P. Jones, the institute's CEO. "But the best data available paints this consistent portrait across a range of issues, including same-sex marriage, workplace non-discrimination, open military service, and adoption rights for gay and lesbian couples."
One-third of Catholics, 33 percent, say the church's message contributes a lot to high suicide rates among young homosexuals, while 37 percent say it has a small effect.
Almost half, 43 percent, of Catholics asked support gay marriage, and 31 percent support civil unions. Only 22 percent are opposed to legal recognition for gay relationships.
A majority, 56 percent, say homosexual sexual relationships are not sinful.
Almost three-quarters, 73 percent, support protections against workplace discrimination, 63 percent say gays should be able to serve openly in the military and 60 percent that gay couples should be able to adopt children.
The data came from surveys the institute conducted in 2010.