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37 percent of Americans say homosexuality is wrong. What about the rest of the world?

Marchers with a rainbow flag in West Hollywood.
Marchers with a rainbow flag in West Hollywood.
David McNew/Getty Images
Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

The Supreme Court in effect legalized same-sex marriage in 60 percent of American states on Monday. But the United States isn't as friendly towards same-sex couples as the legal changes suggest — at least, if we're measuring by global standards of public opinion.

In April, the Pew Global Attitudes Project released a survey on global attitudes towards homosexuality. They asked people in 40 different countries whether homosexuality was "morally acceptable," "morally unacceptable," or "not a moral issue." The chart below shows the percentage of people in each country who chose "unacceptable." Be sure to notice the American position relative to other liberal democracies. A scant 23 percent of Americans said homosexuality was "morally acceptable," 35 percent said it "wasn't a moral issue," and 37 percent called it "morally unacceptable":

us global homosexuality chart

On the one hand, the United States is not one of the 22 countries where a majority of people believe homosexuality is immoral. On the other hand, compared to other developed economies, a considerably higher-than-usual percentage of Americans say they think homosexuality is unacceptable. For example, Americans are twice as likely to say that homosexuality is immoral as are people in the UK, Canada, or Australia.

Instead, the United States looks more like Israel or Poland. All three countries are more religious than their peers in the developed world;, religious countries tend to be more disapproving toward homosexuality.

That said, a 2013 Gallup poll found that a majority of Americans — 59 percent — said homosexuality is morally acceptable. The different may be that they were given only two choices, "morally approve" or "morally disapprove." Moreover, the trendlines in the United States are favorable to gay couples. A majority of Americans have approved of same-sex marriage for several years now, and there's no reason to think that's going to reverse. It's a welcome contrast with the essentially unanimous disapproval of homosexuality in places like Ghana, Jordan, and Egypt.

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