51% of California voters support marriage equality, poll finds

Posted by Drew Joseph on sfgate.com:

"Although a majority of California voters say they support the freedom to marry, that endorsement is as tenuous as it was two years ago when voters told pollsters that they approved of the idea but still voted to ban marriages of same-sex couples.

"A Field Poll scheduled to be released today shows little has changed since May 2008, when 51 percent of voters said they supported marriage equality, only to ban it by approving Proposition 8 six months later.

"The legality of Prop. 8 probably will be decided this month when U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker rules on whether the ban violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equality. The legal battle could ultimately reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

"As in May 2008, 51 percent of voters say they support marriage equality, with 42 percent opposed and 7 percent having no opinion.

"Yet when given a third option of allowing civil unions for same-sex couples but not marriage, about one-third of survey participants - 34 percent - said they prefer this alternative, dropping the numbers of those who support the freedom to marry to 44 percent and that favor no legal recognition of same-sex couples to 19 percent. Three percent had no opinion.

... "Patrick Egan, a politics professor at New York University who has studied the issue, noted that over the last few decades, voters have become increasingly supportive of full marriage rights for gays and lesbians. But he said it is common for polls to overstate the likelihood of people voting that way on ballot measures.

... "Marc Solomon, the marriage director of Equality California, which works to secure legal protections for gay people, said that the poll results were 'great news' because they showed an increase from last year's Field Poll when 49 percent of voters approved of the freedom to marry. A Public Policy Institute of California survey released in March also showed a growing acceptance of marriagel equality, with 50 percent of participants supporting marriage for same-sex couples and 45 percent opposing it.

"Still, Solomon acknowledged that the Field Poll showed a narrow margin and that Equality California needs to continue its outreach to voters before 2012, when supporters hope to get another initiative on the ballot.

"'We're certainly not resting on our laurels and we certainly have work to do,' Solomon said."



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