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

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

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/10/09/art.samesexmarriage.gi.jpg caption="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. T

    Here's how it is:

    -It's not a choice to be gay. People are just attracted to the opposite or the same sex, or both. Therefore, there is no justification for discriminatory actions against gay people, since sexual orientation is unchangeable.
    -This means that it is just as appropriate for two men or two women to enter into a relationship as it is a man and a woman. As long as both members are consenting, non-related adults, there is no difference in the validity of a same-sex relationship, and this relationship should receive the same recognition, rights and benefits as "opposite marriage".
    -And, since we should all know by now that separate but equal is false (because if they were truly equal, then there would be no need for the difference in names), there should be no problem in defining a same-sex marriage as a marriage, and not just a civil union cop-out.

    In the end, I think it is fine to use marriage and civil union interchangeably; but, to relegate one term to each group is going to cause unnecessary tension and strife. Just make things equal and fair, and let's move on to more important issues.

    October 9, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  2. Willy Brown


    October 9, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  3. Bob

    Equal rights for everyone! I don't care who wants to get married. I know, for me, I will marry a woman. We all have to live our lives for ourselves and I refuse to force my views on anyone!

    October 9, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  4. Rob

    Gay marriage is A OK... in fact, Gay Marriage for EVERYONE you dumb backward fools!

    October 9, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  5. Mark in VA

    Robert said:

    "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."

    This is EXACTLY how I feel – well said, Robert.

    October 9, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  6. Sean

    Well, a majority of Americans used to also think that interracial couples should be illegal. And an overwhelming majority of the planet used to think that the world was flat, not round. So basically, majorities aren't always right, like in the case of same sex marriage. I have yet to hear a valid argument against same sex marriage, and until I do, I'll be in full support of it being legally recognized.

    October 9, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  7. Stu

    It's real easy to write off gays/lesbians as immoral, sick, defective, sinful, etc. It's just as easy to put "marriage" high on a pedestal. What marriage is boils down to a commitment between two people. What it probably began as was a way to lay claim to breeding rights. Well, I may be a Republican and conservative on many issues, but I refuse to sit in judgment over gays or lesbians. If that is who they are then they should be free to be who they are, so long as it is among consenting adults. There is no justification to banning same-sex marriages and relationships, or withholding the various benefits man-woman couples are extended. As for the church-state debate, give it up! Marriages are performed outside of the church, as with justices of the peace or even ship captains.

    October 9, 2009 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  8. Centrist

    The government should simply offer civil contracts and leave the semantics of the word, marriage, to individual churches.

    It would help resolve this issue once and for all while upholding religious freedoms, civil rights, and church/state separation in our country.

    Live and let live. Love thy neighbor...

    October 9, 2009 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  9. Oscar

    John Y IL, I'm married, and I do not recall asking you to accept it. You're free to hate, but you're not and should never be free to prevent me from marrying the person I love.

    October 9, 2009 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  10. Stu

    Should also mention that there is also nothing wrong with inter-racial marriages, marriages from differing religious affiliation, or even when one spouse is Republican and the other Democrat. As each of these "barriers" falls, humanity walks forward to mutual respect and understanding, and away from prejudice and fear.

    October 9, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  11. JaJa

    Marriage is religious. Leave it to the churches. My wife and I bought a marriage license and were married by a judge. Nothing religious about it. It's a legal contract. To deny anyone that right violates the constitutional ban on promoting religion. If you want to get right down to it, they government has no right to ban plural marriage either. It's only considered wrong when viewed in a religious light. The sooner we get hypocritical religions out of our goverment, the better.

    October 9, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  12. Kent in CA

    When my partner of 28 years died, our civil union was worthless when it came to Social Security and pension survivor benefits.

    This is legal discrimination and should be outlawed. Either remove the concept of marraige from all laws at the federal, state and local level, or give any couple the right to legally join together in marraige. Those are the only two choices.

    October 9, 2009 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
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