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Gay and Lesbian Marriages

American Public Opinion About Gay and Lesbian Marriages

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

by Joseph Carroll

Gay Marriage

A Jan. 9-11 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll asked Americans if they would favor or oppose a law that would allow homosexual couples to legally get married, or if they have no opinion on the issue at all. The results show that a majority of Americans, 53%, oppose such a law, and 44% of respondents oppose it strongly. Twenty-four percent of Americans say they would favor such a law, and 23% do not have an opinion about gay marriage.

Results to a similar question asked in a mid-December poll (but without an explicit "no opinion" response) show that 65% of Americans said marriages between homosexual couples should not be recognized as legally valid, while 31% said they should. Gallup found slightly higher levels of support for same-sex marriages last June (after the Supreme Court decision in the Texas sodomy case), but a majority still opposed them at that time (by a 39% to 55% margin).

Support for same-sex marriage is considerably lower among those who regularly attend worship service and ideological conservatives.

Civil Unions for Gays and Lesbians

Americans are somewhat more likely to support homosexual civil unions than gay marriage, yet more Americans still oppose civil unions than support them. Thirty-four percent of adults would support "a law that would allow homosexual couples to legally form civil unions, giving them some of the legal rights of married couples," with 20% strongly supporting civil unions. Forty-one percent would oppose such a law, and 35% would oppose it strongly. About one in four have no opinion either way.

Gallup has asked Americans a similar question about homosexual civil unions in the past (typically without an explicit "no opinion" option). In May 2003, the public was evenly divided on the issue of civil unions, with 49% supporting civil unions and 49% opposing them. Following the Supreme Court ruling in June, opinion shifted in a more negative direction, with most Americans saying they would oppose a law allowing homosexual civil unions, by a 57% to 40% margin.

Homosexual Relations Between Consenting Adults

Forty-nine percent of Americans say homosexual relations between consenting adults should not be legal, compared with 46% who say they should be. These results, obtained in the Jan. 9-11 poll, have changed dramatically over the past year. In early May 2003, 60% of Americans said homosexual relations should be legal. This percentage dropped to 50% in mid-July, following the Supreme Court decision that struck down a Texas sodomy law. The public has been evenly divided on this issue since the court's ruling.


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