Support Continues to Build for Gay Marriage Ahead of Court Cases

Younger Americans are most likely to support gay marriage, pollster says.

New polls find a slim majority of Americans support federal recognition of gay marriage.

New polls find a slim majority of Americans support federal recognition of gay marriage.

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Americans continue to be split on their support for gay marriage, according to a pair of new surveys, but those favoring making it legal either on the state or federal level continues to grow.

Nearly 54 percent of Americans said they would support a law granting marriage benefits, including insurance, tax or Social Security to same-sex spouses of federal employees, compared to 39 percent who disagree, according to the latest Gallup Poll.

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The question mirrors a case before the U.S. Supreme Court scheduled to begin oral arguments next week over the portion of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents same-sex partners of federal employees from receiving benefits. According to Gallup, when President Bill Clinton signed DOMA into law in 1996, just 27 percent of Americans supported same-sex marriage as opposed to 68 percent who did not.

"Americans' views on gay marriage have changed dramatically since the law was signed in 1996, with a majority now generally supportive," said Jeffrey Jones, Gallup Poll analyst, in a memo accompanying the survey results. "And with younger Americans much more likely than older Americans to favor legal same-sex marriage, support for gay marriage overall will likely only increase in future years."

Another survey, conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, also shows 50 percent of Americans supportive of federal recognition of same-sex marriages performed in states where it's legal compared to 40 percent who are opposed.

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And while the poll also shows two-thirds of Americans agree that gay relationships should be "accepted" versus 26 percent who disagree, it reveals people are evenly divided over whether or not gay sex is a sin—44 percent say it is, 46 percent say it is not.

The issue has put politicians on both sides of the aisle on the spot, as Democrats who used to oppose same-sex marriage pile on support for it and Republicans seek to strike a chord that fits in with the rapidly changing public opinion landscape while not alienating their religiously conservative base. For instance, top Democratic 2016 presidential prospect Hillary Clinton formally announced her support for gay marriage earlier in this week after previously opposing it and received a warm embrace from liberals.

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Meanwhile, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a popular conservative who may run for the 2016 Republican nomination, found himself in hot water after taking no position on a measure in New Jersey that seeks to ban the practice of gay conversion therapy. A spokesman later clarified to the Star-Ledger, a New Jersey newspaper, that while the governor doesn't believe in the effectiveness in conversion therapy, he is wary of signing a law that would potentially dictate child-raising decisions to parents. Christie opposes same-sex marriage.

About 53 percent of Americans say that a gay person's sexual orientation cannot be changed, compared to 32 percent who say it can be and 15 percent who say they have no opinion, according to the PRRI poll.

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