Poll: Americans oppose bathroom laws limiting transgender rights

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By Letitia Stein

March 10 (Reuters) - The majority of respondents to a new U.S. poll opposed laws barring transgender people from using bathrooms consistent with their gender identities and indicated growing acceptance for gay rights, a nonpartisan research group said on Friday.

Fifty-three percent of the Americans surveyed oppose laws requiring transgender people to use bathrooms that correspond to their sex at birth, according to the national poll by the Public Religion Research Institute.

The survey showed that 39 percent of respondents favored such laws, and almost one in 10 of the 2,031 adults surveyed in February by telephone had no opinion.

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13 PHOTOS
Protests for and against gender-neutral bathrooms
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Protests for and against gender-neutral bathrooms

A sign protesting a recent North Carolina law restricting transgender bathroom access is seen in the bathroom stalls at the 21C Museum Hotel in Durham, North Carolina May 3, 2016.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Drake)

A man holds up a sign supporting North Carolina's anti-transgender bathroom law following Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump' campaign rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S., August 18, 2016.

(REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

Opponents of North Carolina's HB2 law limiting bathroom access for transgender people protest in the gallery above the state's House of Representatives chamber as the legislature considers repealing the controversial law in Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S. on December 21, 2016.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Drake)

Civil rights leader Reverend William Barber, president of the NAACP in North Carolina, speaks to the media inside the state's Legislative Building as lawmakers gather to consider repealing the controversial HB2 law limiting bathroom access for transgender people in Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S. on December 21, 2016.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Drake)

A gender-neutral bathroom is seen at the University of California, Irvine in Irvine, California September 30, 2014. The University of California will designate gender-neutral restrooms at its 10 campuses to accommodate transgender students, in a move that may be the first of its kind for a system of colleges in the United States.

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Transgender people and their supporters have been fighting for repeal of House Bill 2, a North Carolina law that requires people in government buildings to use the bathroom of the gender on their birth certificate.

(John D. Simmons/Charlotte Observer/TNS via Getty Images)

Protestors gather across the street from the North Carolina state legislative building as they voice their concerns over House Bill 2, in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, May 16, 2016. House Bill 2, also known as the Bathroom Bill, which requires transgender people to use the public restroom matching the sex on their birth certificate, has received the attention of national media and the White House.

(Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Protestors gather across the street from the North Carolina state legislative building as they voice their concerns over House Bill 2, in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, May 16, 2016. House Bill 2, also known as the Bathroom Bill, which requires transgender people to use the public restroom matching the sex on their birth certificate, has received the attention of national media and the White House.

(Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Supporter of HB2 Lee Churchill from Raleigh, N.C. holds a sign stating her position outside the North Carolina House and Senate chambers gallery on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016 as the North Carolina General Assembly convenes for a special session at the Legislative Building in Raleigh, N.C.

(Chris Seward/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS via Getty Images)

Transgender activists and supporters protest potential changes by the Trump administration in federal guidelines issued to public schools in defense of transgender student rights, near the White House in Washington, U.S. February 22, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Transgender activists and supporters protest potential changes by the Trump administration in federal guidelines issued to public schools in defense of transgender student rights, near the White House in Washington, U.S. February 22, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Transgender activists and supporters protest potential changes by the Trump administration in federal guidelines issued to public schools in defense of transgender student rights, near the White House in Washington, U.S. February 22, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

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The issue of transgender bathroom rights has become the latest flashpoint in the long U.S. battle over lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

Significant partisan divisions remain, the survey found. While 65 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independents oppose laws limiting transgender bathroom rights, 59 percent of Republicans support the laws, according to the poll. Thirty-six percent of Republicans oppose them.

"This is a case where it really is Republicans kind of pulling away and being more of an outlier to the rest of the country," said Robert P. Jones, chief executive of the Washington-based group.

The poll results come as Republican leaders in Texas are among those considering whether to follow North Carolina in requiring people to use the bathrooms matching their gender at birth in public schools and government buildings.

The U.S. Supreme Court this week sidestepped a major ruling on whether transgender students are entitled to bathroom choice under federal anti-discrimination law.

That decision followed Republican President Donald Trump's swift move to rescind a 2016 directive by former Democratic President Barack Obama's administration to open up bathroom access in U.S. public schools.

Across the United States, acceptance is growing for same-sex marriage, found the poll, which had a margin of error of 2.6 percentage points. Support for same-sex marriage rose to 63 percent in the new survey, up from 52 percent in a 2013 poll.

Partisan divides highlight the influence of white evangelicals among Republicans, Jones said in a telephone interview. They are the only major religious group still strongly opposed to same-sex marriage, polling showed, with most others supportive and black Protestants divided.

While only 45 percent of Republicans favor the legalization of same-sex marriage, the poll found a majority of Republicans under the age of 50 support it.

The poll also found bipartisan support for laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination. (Reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Fla.; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Matthew Lewis)

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