Americans may not be ready to legalize same-sex marriages, but they are ready for civil unions between people of the same sex. In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, 38% support giving homosexuals the right to marry, but when those who would favor civil unions are included, support rises to 62%.
26% want no legal recognition of same-sex couples.
There are stark differences on this question by party, by age, by education and by race. 46% of Republicans oppose any recognition of same-sex couples. Half of those under 30, half of college graduates, and half of Democrats support same-sex marriage. Regionally, there is the most support for same-sex marriage in the West and the least in the South. Whites and Hispanics are more in favor than are African-Americans. But religion also plays an important role in attitudes towards same-sex marriage (and other opinions about gays and lesbians). Nearly half of those who go to religious services once a week oppose any recognition of same-sex couples, while half of those who never attend services favor same-sex marriage.
Some who oppose same-sex marriage make a moral argument; others claim that permitting same-sex marriage would threaten traditional male-female marriages. Most Americans see little impact of legalizing same-sex marriages on the traditional male-female marriage. Majorities in every age group see no impact. But 56% of Republicans say it would threaten traditional marriage.
Three in four of those who oppose any legal recognition for same-sex couples say that recognition would threaten traditional marriage, and 40% of those who want civil unions only agree.
The (im)morality claim has more support. Most who oppose same-sex marriage (including many who would support civil unions) regard same-sex marriage as something immoral. In fact, a majority of Americans say that same-sex marriages are immoral.
More than a third of those Americans who never attend religious services regard same-sex marriages as immoral.
There is significantly more support for allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military than there is for same-sex marriage. More than six in ten Americans support this; just 21% oppose it. Majorities of those who are most religious favor letting gays and lesbians serve openly. So do 35% of those who want no legal recognition of same-sex relationships - not even civil unions.
The "don't ask, don't tell'' policy will not end for a while - not until the Pentagon certifies it is ready to implement the end. And even when that happens, there will still be a 60-day countdown to its actual end. But Americans, by 45% to 33%, believe it has ended and that homosexuals can serve openly today.
Image source: flickr (M.G. Kafkas)