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(12/13/08) -

Americans Divided on Same-Sex Legal Rights

(Angus Reid Global Monitor) – Adults in the United States hold differing views on the topic of legal rights for gay and lesbian couples, according to a poll by Princeton Survey Research Associates International released by Newsweek. 32 per cent of respondents support the concept of civil unions, 31 per cent would offer full marriage rights to same-sex couples, and 30 per cent oppose any legal recognition for gay and lesbian partnerships.

(Angus Reid Global Monitor) – Adults in the United States hold differing views on the topic of legal rights for gay and lesbian couples, according to a poll by Princeton Survey Research Associates International released by Newsweek. 32 per cent of respondents support the concept of civil unions, 31 per cent would offer full marriage rights to same-sex couples, and 30 per cent oppose any legal recognition for gay and lesbian partnerships.

In 2004, marriage certificates were issued to same-sex couples by local governments in the states of California, Oregon, New Mexico and New York. In May 2004, the state of Massachusetts allowed gay and lesbian partners to apply for marriage licenses. In May 2008, California’s Supreme Court overturned a ban on same-sex marriage in a 4-3 decision, effectively allowing full marriage rights to homosexual partners.

Civil union and domestic partnership laws in Vermont, Connecticut and New Jersey grant same-sex couples all state-level rights and obligations of marriage—in areas such as inheritance, income tax, insurance and hospital visitation. Other forms of domestic partnership exist in the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire and Washington State. There are more than 1,000 federal-level rights of marriage that cannot be granted by states.

Same-sex marriage is currently legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, and South Africa. Norway will allow homosexual couples to get married in 2009. At least 18 countries offer some form of legal recognition to same-sex unions.

On Nov. 4, 52.5 per cent of voters in California endorsed Proposition 8, which seeks to amend the state Constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman.

On Dec. 10, gays and lesbians across the U.S. were urged to skip work and avoid shopping as part of the "Day Without A Gay" protest, which sought to raise awareness about the economic power of the gay community. Protest leader Sean Hetherington discussed the rationale, saying, "This isn’t just about people not going into work. We realize in this economic situation it is tough. We think the reason why Proposition 8 passed [in California] is because there wasn’t enough visibility."

Polling Data

Thinking about legal rights for gay and lesbian couples, which of the following comes closest to your position on this issue? Do you support full marriage rights for same-sex couples; or support civil unions or partnerships for same-sex couples, but not full marriage rights; or do you oppose any legal recognition for same-sex couples?

Marriage rights

31%

Civil unions

32%

No legal recognition

30%

Unsure

7%

Source: Princeton Survey Research Associates International / Newsweek
Methodology: Telephone interviews with 1,006 American adults, conducted on Dec. 3 and Dec. 4, 2008. Margin of error is 3.7 per cent.