A clear majority of Americans (57%) favors 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 (24% in August 2008 to 30% in 2009) while remaining stable among those who favor same-sex marriage. At the same time, opponents of same-sex marriage continue to outnumber supporters overall. An August 2009 Pew Research Center survey 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 recent national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public life, conducted Aug. 11-27 among 4,013 adults reached on both landlines and cell phones, 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 less supportive of same-sex marriage (11% in favor compared with 70% of those who have no moral qualms about homosexuality) and civil unions (33% in favor compared with 82% of those who have no qualms about homosexuality).
Read the full report Majority Continues To Support Civil Unions on the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life Web site.