Majority of Americans now support gay marriage, survey finds

Wed Feb 26, 2014 4:19pm EST
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Support for gay marriage has surged in the United States in the decade since it first became legal in Massachusetts, with just over half of Americans now supporting the idea, according to a survey released on Wednesday.

The survey on attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people comes as U.S. lawmakers and courts are increasingly allowing same-sex couples to wed.

Some 53 percent of the 4,509 Americans surveyed by the Public Religion Research Institute said they supported gay marriage, up from 32 percent in 2003, when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize it.

PRRI Chief Executive Robert Jones said the poll joined a raft of other surveys showing that a majority of Americans back gay marriage.

The decade-long uptrend marks "a fairly remarkable shift" in attitude, he told a conference call.

"As public opinion goes, we really rarely see this kind of movement on any issue over a decade's time," Jones said.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia recognize gay marriage, with bans overturned in several states after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that legally married same-sex couples were eligible for federal benefits.

Fewer Americans who describe themselves as religious oppose same-sex marriages, the survey found. Negative church teachings or treatment of gay couples was cited by 31 percent of millennials, or people 18 to 33, as a major factor in leaving their childhood religion.

Jews were most likely to support gay marriage, with 83 percent saying they did so, followed by 58 percent of white Roman Catholics and 56 percent of Hispanic Catholics. Among Hispanic Protestants, 46 percent favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry and 49 percent oppose it.   Continued...

Keri Bias (L) holds a sign in support of same sex marriage in front of the Hawaii State Capital in Honolulu in this file photo taken October 28, 2013. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry/Files