Poll finds most in US back gay marriage

Washington Post / March 19, 2011

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WASHINGTON — A slim majority of Americans now support gay marriage, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The results underscore the nation’s increasingly tolerant views about homosexuals and parallel a string of recent legal and legislative victories for gay rights advocates.

Five years ago, at 36 percent, support for gay marriage barely topped a third of all Americans. Now, 53 percent say gay marriage should be legal, marking the first time in Post-ABC polling that a majority has said so.

“This is very consistent with a lot of other polling data we’ve seen and the general momentum we’ve seen over the past year and a half,’’ said Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, a leading pro-gay-marriage group based in New York. “As people have come to understand this is about loving, committed families dealing, like everyone, with tough times, they understand how unfair it is to treat them differently.’’

Opponents of same-sex marriage took issue with the poll, which asks respondents: “Do you think it should be legal or illegal for gay and lesbian couples to get married?’’ Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, argued that the term “illegal’’ could be inferred to mean that violators could be imprisoned, which most Americans would consider harsh.

Brown, whose group is a prominent anti-gay-marriage group, noted that all 31 states that have put same-sex marriage on the ballot voted to ban it.

“The only poll that counts is a free and fair vote on the part of the people,’’ he said.

Post-ABC News polls have used the same “legal or illegal’’ wording in every poll about same-sex marriage since 2003. Other surveys show similar trends.