Poll: Support for gay marriage may be leveling off

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Poll: Support for gay marriage may be leveling off
ARKANSAS: A state judge in May struck down the state's ban. The state Supreme Court brought marriages to a halt and is weighing state officials' appeal. Same-sex couples are also suing the state in federal court. The attorney general's office has asked that proceedings in both cases be put on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether to take up a case from Utah.
COLORADO: Several county clerks began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in June despite the ban. A state judge struck down the ban July 9 but put the ruling on hold while the state appeals. On July 23, a federal judge also overturned the ban but issued a stay; a federal appeals court later extended the stay. The state Supreme Court on July 29 ordered all clerks to stop issuing licenses to same-sex couples. Republican Attorney General John Suthers says that he knows it's only a matter of time until gay marriage is legal but that he'll continue to defend the law.
FLORIDA: A federal judge declared the state's ban unconstitutional in mid-August, joining state judges in four counties. He issued a stay delaying the effect of his order, meaning no marriage licenses will be immediately issued for gay couples.
HAWAII: Same-sex couples sued in 2011 to overturn the state's ban. A federal court later upheld the ban, but then Legislature last year legalized gay marriage. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments in San Francisco on Sept. 8, the same day it will consider cases from Idaho and Nevada.
IDAHO: State officials are appealing a federal judge's decision to overturn the state's ban. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco is scheduled to hear arguments Sept. 8, the same day it will consider appeals from Hawaii and Nevada.
INDIANA: A federal judge struck down the state's ban in June, and hundreds of couples wed before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago granted a stay of the ruling. The appeals court heard argument from both sides on Aug. 26, though no decision was immediately made.
KENTUCKY: Two Kentucky cases were among six from four states heard in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on Aug. 6. Rulings are pending on recognition of out-of-state marriages, as well as the ban on marriages within the state.
MICHIGAN: The state's ban was overturned by a federal judge in March following a rare trial that mostly focused on the impact on children. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati heard arguments Aug. 6, and a ruling is pending.
NEVADA: Eight couples are challenging Nevada's voter-approved 2002 ban, which a federal judge upheld a decade later. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has scheduled arguments for Sept. 8, the same day the court will consider appeals from Hawaii and Idaho.
OHIO: Two Ohio cases were argued Aug. 6 in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and a ruling is pending. In one, two gay men whose spouses were dying sued to have their out-of-state marriages recognized on their spouses' death certificates. In the other, four couples sued to have both spouses listed on their children's birth certificates.
OKLAHOMA: An appeals court tossed the state's ban in July but put its ruling on hold on hold pending an appeal, meaning same-sex couples can't marry in Oklahoma for now. Attorneys representing the Tulsa County court clerk -- who refused to issue a marriage license for a lesbian couple there -- asked the Supreme Court this month to hear the case.
TENNESSEE: The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Aug. 6 on an appeal of a federal judge's order to recognize three same-sex couples' marriages while their lawsuit against the state works through the courts. A ruling is pending.
UTAH: The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled this summer that Utah must allow gay couples to marry, though it put the ruling on hold pending an appeal. The state has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the state's ban.
VIRGINIA: The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled in July that the state's voter-approved ban is unconstitutional. The state has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which hasn't said whether it will accept the case. But the high court granted a request on Aug. 20 from a county clerk to delay implementation of the ruling, which would have allowed same-sex couples to marry beginning the next day.
WISCONSIN: A federal judge struck down the state's ban in June, leading to more than 500 same-sex weddings before the judge put her ruling on hold. The state appealed to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, which heard arguments from both sides on Aug. 26 but made no immediate ruling.
ELSEWHERE: Other states with court cases demanding recognition of gay marriage are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming. Most lawsuits challenge same-sex marriage bans or ask states to recognize gay marriages done in other states.
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By RACHEL ZOLL

A survey released Monday from the Pew Research Center indicates American support for same-sex marriage could be leveling off after several years of dramatic growth in acceptance of equal rights for gays and lesbians.

The study's authors caution it's too soon to draw any definitive conclusions. But the new poll released Monday found a 5 percentage point drop since February, from 54 percent to 49 percent, in Americans who want legal recognition for same-sex relationships. The percentage of those opposed increased during that same period, from 39 percent in February to 41 percent last month.

The poll of 2,002 adults, conducted Sept. 2-9, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

"Since we've seen this upward trend for so long, we're cautious because it's too early to say what this means for long-term trends," said Jessica Martinez, a researcher in Pew's Religion and Public Life Project. "As we continue to ask this question in other surveys, we'll keep an eye on where this moves."

The findings were part of a survey in which nearly three-quarters of Americans said religious influence in public life was waning and most saw that as a negative trend. About half of respondents said churches and houses of worship should speak out more on public issues.

Nearly half of all the respondents said businesses that provide services for weddings, such as florists, should be allowed to deny service to same-sex couples if the owners have religious objections. The Pew survey also found the percentage of people who consider gay relationships sinful had increased from 45 percent a year ago to 50 percent last month, although other surveys have found that people with religious objections don't always oppose legal recognition for gay relationships.

The campaign for recognition of gay marriage has grown to become a broad mass movement supported in recent years by a majority of Americans. A decade ago, only about 30 percent of Americans accepted same-sex marriage. Now, 19 states and the District of Columbia recognize gay marriage, while petitions for recognition in several other states are moving through the courts.

The Gallup organization said support for gay marriage first rose above the 50 percent mark in its surveys in 2011, and has remained above half since. Gallup's latest survey, this past May, found acceptance of gay marriage at a new high of 55 percent. But the group's researchers found support was increasing by smaller margins than it had during the era of fastest growth so far, between 2009 and 2011.

Martinez said the drop in support in the Pew poll was not driven by any particular religious or political group in the sample, but was a change across the board. Pew used similar groups of respondents in terms of political and religious views for both surveys, she said. The number of Americans who told Pew they were undecided on gay marriage increased from 7 percent in February to 10 percent last month.

Robert Jones, chief executive of Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit group that conducts surveys on religion and public life, said it's particularly challenging to interpret surveys on gay marriage because the numbers have changed so dramatically over a very short period. He noted that support has been driven by younger people, who tend to be far more accepting of same-sex relationships than their parents. He said polling by his organization over this past summer showed fluctuations in support, but backing remained between 56 percent and 51 percent.

"The fundamentals underneath the trend remain very solid - in the generational breaks that are driving this," Jones said. "The long-term curve on this trend doesn't show any retreat."

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