The gay rights battle is raging in three countries where Gallup regularly conducts polling on gay issues -- the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. The most recent 2005 polls* show public opinion about homosexuality is mixed in each country, although as tends to be the case for a number of moral issues, the public is more accepting in Canada and Great Britain than in the United States.
Acceptance of Homosexuality
Gallup asked residents of all three countries whether they would like to see homosexuality "more widely accepted" in their nation, "less widely accepted," or if acceptance of homosexuality is "about right."
In the United States, roughly 3 in 10 adults (29%) want homosexuality to be more widely accepted, while 38% of Canadians and Britons want homosexuality to be more widely accepted. A plurality of Americans (36%) feel homosexuality should be less widely accepted, while only a quarter (24%) of Canadians and 15% of Britons feel this way.
Other recent polling in the three countries reinforces the ideological divide between opinion in the United States and opinion in Canada and Great Britain. In a Gallup Poll conducted from August-September 2004, 60% of Canadians and 61% of Britons said they felt "homosexual behavior" was morally acceptable. Only 42% of Americans say the same, according to a May 2004 poll.
In all three countries, a great deal of debate currently centers on a specific aspect of gay rights: same-sex marriage. The most recent Gallup polling on this issue shows support for same-sex marriage is stronger in Great Britain and Canada than it is in the United States -- according to the August-September 2004 poll, about half of Britons (52%) and Canadians (51%) feel same-sex marriages should be legally recognized, while a recent U.S. poll shows just 39% of Americans support legalizing same-sex marriage, near the high point for U.S. acceptance.
Recent legal wrangling in the three nations reflects the differing views in each country. Nowhere is the fight over same-sex marriage more contentious than in the United States. A little over a year ago, Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to allow legal gay marriages. But this apparent victory for gay rights supporters set off an ideological firestorm across the country, as other states scrambled to pass amendments effectively banning same-sex marriage. Voters passed such amendments in 11 states during the November 2004 elections, and several states have since passed similar laws or have laws currently pending.
Public sentiment appears more accepting of homosexuality in Canada and Great Britain, and gay rights advocates seem to be making headway in both countries. In Canada, six provinces and one territory already allow gay couples to marry, and in December 2004 the Canadian Supreme Court authorized the government to legalize gay marriage nationwide. Canada's Liberal government survived the recent election, so the gay marriage bill will likely pass. The United Kingdom passed the Civil Partnerships Act in December 2004, which gives same-sex couples equal rights as married couples, but falls short of granting actual gay "marriages."
Developments in gay rights, particularly rights relating to marriage, have been making news across the Western world for more than a decade. Denmark started granting gay couples the same rights as heterosexual couples in 1989, and several other northern European countries followed suit in 1996. The Netherlands has been offering full civil marriage rights to gay couples since 2001.
Canada seems likely to follow the example of its progressive peers across the Atlantic and legalize gay marriage. Great Britain is moving forward while hanging back, granting rights to gay couples but steering clear of legalizing marriages. In the United States, on the other hand, the future of gay marriage is even further from certain, as some U.S. states move toward embracing gay marriage while others condemn it.
*Results in the United States are based on telephone interviews with 1,005 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Jan. 3-5, 2005. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. The survey was conducted by Gallup USA.
Results in Canada are based on telephone interviews with 1,006 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted April 11-17, 2005. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. The survey was conducted by Gallup Canada.
Results in Great Britain are based on telephone interviews with 1,012 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted April 5-18, 2005. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. The survey was conducted by Gallup UK.