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Survey Shows Americans Are Becoming More Supportive of Transgender Rights Amid Federal Rollback of LGBTQ Protections

A rainbow flag flies above the San Diego Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center. - Sandy Huffaker—Getty Images
A rainbow flag flies above the San Diego Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center. Sandy Huffaker—Getty Images

More than six in ten Americans say they have become more supportive of transgender rights compared to their stances five years ago, according to a new survey.

The findings from the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonpartisan research organization, show a shift in public perception across political parties. Over three-quarters of Democrats surveyed reported being more supportive of transgender rights now than in 2014. Meanwhile, 64% of independents said they felt this way, and 47% of Republicans did.

Majorities from major religious groups also indicated their perceptions had changed, according to the survey, which contacted over 1,000 people. Nearly 70% of Catholics reported becoming more supportive of transgender rights over the last five years, versus 60% of nonwhite Protestants and 52% of white evangelical Protestants, the findings published Tuesday say.

Robert P. Jones, the CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, suggested the shift is part of a larger trend of mounting LGBTQ support.

“Increase in support for transgender rights tracks fairly closely with the large increase in support for gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans,” he tells TIME. Jones also says the number of Americans who report having a close friend or family member who is transgender has doubled since 2015, and that “having a close relationship with someone transgender is strongly correlated with holding more supportive views of transgender rights.”

The survey results comes amid several recent attempts by the Trump administration to rollback policies that protect LGBTQ Americans.

In April, the Department of Defense rolled out Trump’s guidance that effectively bars transgender individuals who take hormones or have transitioned from enlisting in the military, and prohibits already-enlisted troops from undergoing hormone therapy or gender transition surgeries—unless they were diagnosed with gender dysphoria before the new policy took effect. The Public Religion Research Institute’s new report polled respondents on whether transgender people should be allowed to serve in the military, and 63% said they were in favor of it.

In May, the Department of Housing and Urban Development introduced a policy proposal that could allow men’s and women’s homeless shelters to segregate transgender people where allowed by state and local laws. It could also allow shelters to consider a person’s sex when determining whether an individual would be admitted to the shelter. The Department of Health and Human Services also published a proposal in May that would reverse an Obama-era rule defining discrimination “on the basis of sex” to including gender identity.

And in June, which is celebrated around the world as LGBTQ Pride Month, the Trump administration denied requests by U.S. embassies to fly the rainbow pride flag, according to NBC News.

Jones says his organization’s polling shows public policies are not keeping up with public opinion on transgender rights.

“Generally, the Trump administration’s policy directions, such as refusing to collect data on transgender Americans and restricting transgender military service, are flying against the wind of support for transgender rights in the country,” he says. “Virtually every demographic group in the country, including Republicans and white evangelical Protestants, report they have become more supportive of transgender rights over the last five years.”

Write to Abby Vesoulis at abby.vesoulis@time.com.