October 9th, 2009
12:34 PM ET
10 years ago

Poll: Americans support civil unions, oppose same-sex marriage

A majority of Americans continue to back civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.

A majority of Americans continue to back civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A majority of Americans continue to back civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, but oppose legalizing same-sex marriages, according to a new national poll.

The Pew Research Center survey's Friday release comes on the eve of President Barack Obama's speech in front of gay rights advocates at the Human Rights Campaign banquet in the nation's capital. The following day, same-sex activists plan to march on the Mall in Washington.

According to the poll, 57 percent of people questioned support civil unions, a slight uptick, with 37 percent opposed. The survey suggests that 53 percent oppose legalizing same sex marriage, with 39 percent in favor, basically unchanged from a year ago.

The poll indicates that more than six in 10 say say gays and lesbians face a lot of discrimination, more than any other group asked about in the survey.


Exit polls from last November's presidential election suggest that gay, lesbian and bisexual voters overwhelming backed Obama. Many of them had high expectations that Obama would bring results for them on gay rights issues once he entered the White House, and some are now growing impatient with the slow pace of change.

The Pew Research Center poll was conducted in August, with 4,013 people questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 2 percentage points.


Filed under: Same-sex marriage
soundoff (87 Responses)
  1. Felonious Monk

    I have a question for anyone to answer.
    How can you justify giving one segment of society certain rights and freedoms and deny those same rights and freedoms to another segment of society?
    How can this be justified by the constitution? You people remember the constitution? The document "our" country utilizes as the basis for law.
    If you were so worried about protecting marriage you would outlaw divorce. It seems the religious folks would be willing to accept some sort of punishment for cheating on their wives and/or husbands.

    This entire issues of protecting marriage is a foolish distraction from real issues facing Americans.
    Riddle me this.

    October 9, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  2. PCistheRealMob

    This really comes as no shock. The real issue is that gays/liberals believe that everything can be fixed through legislation. What they are trying to do here is legislate acceptance for their lifestyle which, just like gun laws, will have no real effect on the real world. "Live and let live" is not enough for them. In my experience, most heterosexuals are somewhat put off by the gay lifestyle, but in general could care less if someone else has opted for the lifestyle or not. The issue is when there is an agenda to advance the cause, influence youth, and go on the offensive against traditional marriage that I belive they are crossing a line. They are not doing this just so they can get health benefits for their "spouses", there is a cultural/political agenda at work here. Otherwise, civil unions would be a reasonable solution for them. Here's some homework... Write down your estimation of the following percentages:
    1. Gays percentage of US pop. based solely on what you see on TV / media.
    2. What you think is the percentage of gays in the US.
    3. Research the census bureau's stats on what the actual percentage is.

    I think you will be shocked by the values.

    BTW... I am right of center, married with three kids, can count on two hands the number of times I have been to church, and have a number of Gay/Lesbian family members and friends...

    October 9, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  3. Joe, San Diego

    The President should use his executive power and grant civil unions the same benefits/rights/privileges/monies as married couples.

    October 9, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  4. Ralph Esposito

    There are three kinds of lies, well actually four: dark lies, white lies, statistics, and pluralities of ignorance. If you think that Americans really want civil unions you are grossly mistaken. We can make polls say whatever we want them to say and inteerpret them as we wish. Go out in rural America and in the small tows and find out what is really going on and how disgusting such tings are to the people living there. O to be sure, some will tell me to get a life and to look again...It works both ways, you know.

    October 9, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  5. Lee W. in Raleigh, NC

    Civil unions as requirement for gay couples in lieu of "marriage" is equivalent to the "separate but equal" doctrine which was struck down by the Supreme Court decades ago.

    Our Constitution guarantees equal rights. If gays are to have equal rights, they should be entitled to the same kind of unions as heteros have.

    As a straight person, I support MARRIAGE for all couples. If religions decide they can't allow marriages in their church, it's their right to interpret God how they've chosen. Our Constitution guarantees them that right. But the State should recognize all unions as marriages.

    October 9, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  6. Lewis Ormand

    Be patient.... Give the President a chance. Rome wasn't built in a day. We did the RIGHT thing when we elected him.... And I feel sure we won't be sorry for it.... Peace

    October 9, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  7. Robert

    I do not care that 53% of Americans oppose marriage equality. It is irrelevant how they think.

    Equal opportunity under the law is a constitutional right, and should never have been put up for a vote. We do not vote whether or not a group of people should be treated equally in this country. It's a given. It's a constitutional right.

    We also have religious freedom in America. That means that the ditzy Mormons, Catholics, and fundamentalists do not have to perform marriage ceremonies for gay couples. It also means that they and their followers should not be allowed to prevent the Unitarians, the United Church of Christ, Episcopalians and any others who believe in the sanctity of marriage for gay couples from performing them either.

    The issue won't end until conservatives understand they and their religions don't have to like or perform marriage ceremonies for gay people, but that it is not their place to prevent those who do believe in it from performing them.

    October 9, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  8. Brian0901

    If they want to marry let them. Gay marriage does not affect my marriage one bit.

    October 9, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  9. Musicman

    i would gladly take a civil union, provided that the civil union provides ALL the rights and priviledges of a marriage. RIght now, I'm getting nailed with taxes for my partners health benefits. that doesn;t happen with the straight married couples.

    October 9, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  10. Reformed Republican

    Civil Unions are fine for ALL couples who want to be recognized as life partners with the legal rights afford those who enter such a union regardless of their sexes, religions or color.

    Remeber folks, regardless of your sex, religion – or lack thereof – or race you have to get a "license" from the state to have your union recognized. It is required if your married is performed by a state authorized JP or a member ot the clergy.

    However, if your religion or it's clergy chooses not to perform the union for you then do a "civil" ceremony. Either way, your "marriage" is legit and should be recognized by the state – Unless of course you live south of the Mason-Dixon line or are a draconian evangelical than all rational thinking on the subject is thrown out the window.

    October 9, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  11. Jesus Francisco

    "The survey suggests that 53 percent oppose legalizing same sex marriage,..."

    Sorry, 53 percent is just NOT an overwhelming number. And, more people than this opposed integration of the Military, Interracial Marriage ... so, what's the point?
    Freedom means freedom for everyone. – Dick Cheney

    October 9, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  12. S. Cooper

    Poll: Americans support African-Americans on public transit, oppose front-end seating

    October 9, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  13. DT

    I agree...Civil Union or nothin...

    October 9, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  14. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    Civil Unions are still discrimination.
    Marriage should be a word used by any two humans who want to attempt to spend their lives together.
    If you are afraid that your union will be lessened, pick new terms for it and don't deny the use of the word and/or the benefits to anyone. Selecting a group to be excluded from what the rest of us have is DISCRIMINATION, not accommodation.
    Gays don't want to be accommodated, they want what is legal/Constitutional.

    October 9, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  15. Tom C in NY

    If you control for age, you find that most of the opposition to this is from older folks. What may seem radical and abnormal to them is much more maintream to the rest of us.

    October 9, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  16. Marion

    It really doesn't matter what a "majority" of Americans support on this one. This is a civil rights issue and shouldn't be up for a vote.

    October 9, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  17. Informed Voter

    We can not allow polls to decide who gets equal rights and who doesn"t. Marriage equality is a civil right that can't be left to a popular vote. If America practiced that sort of lawmaking process, we would still have slavery. I am a married (for 22 years) woman who hopes that all adults will be allowed to marry the person they love, regardless of their sexual orientation.

    October 9, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  18. george

    The problem here is the Catholics and others think they own the word "marriage".Who the hell are you people that think you have the right to force your views on everyone else,o yeah,republicans.

    October 9, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  19. John

    "six in 10 say gays and lesbians face a lot of discrimination" –

    yet a majority of Americans are fine with maintaining the institutionalized discrimination of civil unions over civil marriage.
    C'mon America – recognizing discrimination is not solving it. Equal rights under the law, NOW!

    October 9, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  20. AJ

    If matters of social reform were left up to the general public slavery would still be in place, women would not have the right to vote, schools would not be integrated, and the list goes on. We are a nation of hillbillies who should not be left to decide these types of matters. It is the responsibility of a democracy to protect the rights of the minority, even if the minority may make the majority uncomfortable.

    October 9, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  21. LacrosseMom

    Although I am a Liberal, I oppose same-sex marriage. I do not hate nor fear Gays. As a religious person, I believe that marriage is a Sacrament between a man and a woman.

    I have a question that has never been answered:

    Why do Gay folks insist on "marriage" why isn't a Civil Union enough?

    Peace everyone, there is enough hate in the World.

    October 9, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  22. mark fraley

    Marriage is a sacred union before Almighty God,blessed.No one;man ,woman or court can change that without judgement from His court.Our Maker, of heaven and earth, loves us richly,but our sins separate us from His good intentions for us.

    October 9, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  23. Frankly Barney

    As Maine goes, so goes the nation. The message here is loud and clear. Civil Unions will have the backing of the majority of Americans and marriage is a religious ceremony between one man and one woman. More "Prop 8's" will be the result of continued posturing on this issue by certain members of the LGBT community.

    October 9, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  24. Mara

    Fine. Make 'civil unions' the legal default and reserve 'marriage' for religious whiners. What will eventually happen, as illustrated by the european model, is that the majority of couples will opt for the civil union and 'marriage' will decline in importance.

    And we'll try not to indulge in too much schadenfreude when the gay-haters realize that in trying to maintain the exclusivity of marriage, they destroyed it as an institution.

    October 9, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  25. liz

    People don't choose to be gay, but they do choose to be bigots. One is curable, the other isn't. No one who screams about the 'sanctity of marriage' has yet been able to answer the simple question, 'how does a gay couple marrying make any straight couple any less married?' The answer is, it doesn't. In fact, the first state to legalize same-sex marriage has seen a DROP in its divorce rate since people were allowed to marry the person they belong with instead of entering into, for whatever reasons, a sham marriage. It's time to drop the bigotry born of ignorance and religious brainwashing and live up to what it says in the Pledge of Allegiance, with liberty and justice for ALL.

    October 9, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
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