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Poll: Most Americans do not support ‘religious freedom’ laws

Poll finds that most Americans believe it’s wrong for businesses to refuse service on basis of religious beliefs

A majority of Americans believe businesses should not be allowed to refuse services on the basis of religious beliefs, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found on Thursday, in the wake of controversies in Indiana and Arkansas over gay rights and religious freedom.

Fifty-four percent of respondents said it was wrong for businesses to refuse services, while 28 percent said they should have that right. And 55 percent said businesses should not have the right to refuse to hire certain people or groups on basis of the employer's religious beliefs, while 27 percent said businesses should have the right.

The poll — of nearly 900 Americans, conducted online from April 6 to 8 — also found that 52 percent of respondents support allowing same-sex couples to marry, compared with 32 percent who oppose it.

The survey results suggest a split over the issue of gay rights between the public and some politicians.

Indiana's Republican Gov. Mike Pence set off a firestorm in his state this month by signing a law that would allow businesses to refuse services to people on the basis of religious beliefs.

Gay rights activists saw the law as discriminatory, and a backlash forced Indiana's legislature to make changes to the law.

Days later, Arkansas' Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson called on his state legislature to change a similar law in order to avoid having it blow up into a controversy in his state.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll found divisions among Americans on the whether same-sex marriage laws should be passed at the state or federal level.

The poll found that 34 percent of Americans said the U.S. Supreme Court should declare marriage for same-sex couples a constitutional right nationwide, 22 percent said same-sex marriage laws should be passed at the state level by referendum, 11 percent said such laws should be up to state legislators and 8 percent said it should up to the U.S. Congress. The poll found 24 percent did not know how best to handle the issue.

The poll found that 55 percent of respondents said they want to see all states — even those that do not permit such unions — recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.


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