Washington Public support appears to be growing for legalizing civil unions for same-sex couples, as well as for allowing states to make their own laws regulating homosexual marriage, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.
About half of the country -- 51 percent -- favors allowing gay and lesbian couples to form civil unions with the same basic legal rights of married couples, up 6 percentage points in less than a month. A slightly larger majority also rejected amending the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriages in favor of allowing states to make their own laws, an 8-point increase in recent weeks.
But it's too early to draw firm conclusions from these results. Polling on homosexual marriage has been particularly volatile. For example, support for giving states the right to decide on who can and cannot get married stood at 58 percent in January, dipped to 45 percent in February, and now stands at 53 percent in the latest Post-ABC News poll.
The survey comes as the controversy over same-sex unions continues to build across the nation. In California, Oregon, New York and New Jersey, local officials have issued marriage licenses in the past month to gay and lesbian couples. President Bush has come out in support of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, casting the issue into the middle of the 2004 presidential campaign. Roughly 6 in 10 Americans polled oppose same-sex marriage, up 4 percentage points from last month.
Still, the survey suggests that Bush's endorsement of a constitutional ban is far from popular. Overall, 52 percent said they disapproved of the way Bush was handling the issue of same-sex marriage, while 44 percent approved.
A total of 1,202 randomly selected adults were interviewed March 4-7 for this survey. Margin of sampling error for the overall results is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The poll comes after some supporters of same-sex marriage have expressed fears that the issue was moving too quickly. The sight of same-sex couples kissing on the courthouse steps would prompt a public backlash that would block even modest changes inthe legal status of same-sex couples, they feared.
The survey found the country deeply divided along and even within partisan lines over exactly what rights, if any, to extend to same-sex couples. About six in 10 Democrats and independents support allowing civil unions for homosexual couples, while an equally large majority of Republicans oppose it.