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Majority Continues to Support Civil Unions, Most Still Oppose Same-Sex Marriage

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) Oct. 9 - A new report based on a recent national survey by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press finds that a clear majority of Americans favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into legal agreements with each other that would give them many of the same rights as married couples, a status commonly known as civil unions. This finding marks a slight uptick in support for civil unions and appears to continue a significant long-term trend since the question was first asked in Pew Research Center surveys in 2003, when support for civil unions stood at 45%.

Over the past year, support for civil unions has grown significantly among those who oppose same-sex marriage while remaining stable among those who favor same-sex marriage. At the same time, opponents of same-sex marriage continue to outnumber supporters overall. Conducted Aug. 11-27 among 4,013 adults, the poll finds that 53% oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, compared with 39% who support same-sex marriage, numbers that are virtually unchanged over the past year.

Supporters of same-sex marriage are divided over the best way to pursue its legalization; 45% favor pushing hard to legalize it as soon as possible, while 42% of same-sex marriage advocates say they should not push too hard to legalize same-sex marriages right away because this might risk creating a backlash against gays and lesbians.

The poll also finds that half of the public (49%) says homosexual behavior is morally wrong, while 9% say it is morally acceptable and 35% say it is not a moral issue. Those who say it is morally wrong are significantly less supportive of same-sex marriage and civil unions.