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Sexuality and Religious Commitment in the United States: An Empirical Examination

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I provide an empirical assessment of the religious commitments of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals in the United States. I compare the religiosity of gay men and lesbians and bisexuals to each other and to male and female heterosexuals, while controlling for a host of sociodemographic factors that may contribute to differences across the gender/sexuality groups. To accomplish this, I examine data from the 1991–2000 General Social Surveys (GSS). During this period, the GSS asked respondents for the sex of their sex partners over the last five years. The GSS finds that 4.3 percent of men and 3.1 percent of women report same-sex sexual partners in the five years preceding the interview—this is a larger proportion than members of “other” races, Episcopalians, or Jews. I find that gay men have high rates of religious participation, while lesbians and bisexuals have significantly lower rates of participation. Nonheterosexuals are more likely to become apostates when compared to female heterosexuals, but no more so than are heterosexual men. My findings are at odds with religious pundits who suggest that alternative sexuality mixes with religion more often for females than for males. The results are in concert with contemporary theories regarding the formation of religious preferences, and risk preferences and religiosity.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Southern Illinois University [email protected]

Publication date: 2002-06-01

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