Homosexuality, Religion, and Science: Moral Authority and the Persistence of Negative Attitudes*

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The liberalization of attitudes toward homosexuality in the United States over the past 30 years is well documented. Despite these changes, substantial resistance to equality for gay men and lesbians remains. Previous studies indicate that beliefs about the etiology of homosexuality are central to this discussion. Those who believe homosexuality is innate are more favorable, while those who believe it is the result of a choice are more negative. Moreover, experimental research indicates that those with negative views actually become more opposed when a natural explanation is proposed. This study highlights the importance of perceived sources of epistemic and moral authority for understanding views of homosexuality. Using stances on culturally controversial issues involving “science and religion” as indicators of where individuals place authority, we outline the connection between perceptions of moral authority and attributions about homosexuality. Analyses of a national survey of American adults show that, net of controls, one’s stance on moral authority is the strongest predictor of attributions about whether homosexuality is chosen or innate.