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%.
This is the good news to come out of the new poll which questioned 4,013 adults, 18 years of age or older.
Unfortunately, for marriage equality, 53% oppose with only 39% in support, numbers which are "virtually unchanged" over the past year, the pollsters say. However, this doesn't mean people who oppose aren't growing more and more in favor of recognizing LGBT relationships.
"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," the pollsters report.
So what this indicates is the need to continue the work of educating people on the difference between civil unions and marriage. For many, they believe they're exactly the same and therefore, the LGBT population should settle for them.
But we all know that civil unions aren't equal to marriage - studies have shown that those in civil unions are not treated equally in society, and when emergencies demand rights to be enacted, many in a position of power, such as a nurse at a hospital, more than likely will not respond to a frantic lesbian demanding to see her ailing wife when she says, "We're civil unioned."
Another interesting note that reflects some of the division amongst LGBT and allied activists.
"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."
It would be interesting to know where there the respondents to this particular question live. I would bet that those in the deep Red State South mostly favor not pushing hard for marriage but a prefer a priority on ENDA and DADT.
The full poll reports is embedded below.
Pew Forum Poll on Marriage Equality October 2009
Read about how supportive Minnesota is of LGBT rights.