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Opposition to gay marriage in US declining, but still high

Also: youth, women, and college grads most likely to have gay friends

Most Americans oppose same-sex marriage, but that number is declining, suggests a recent survey about gay issues by the US-based Pew Research Center.

As of early 2007, the survey found that more than half of Americans (55 per cent) opposed same-sex marriage, compared to 37 per cent who said they support same-sex marriage rights. In 1996, 65 per cent opposed gay marriage.

Gay marriage is only allowed in one U.S. state: Massachusetts. Three states allow civil unions for same-sex couples, which grants all the same rights as a marriage but without the title. Several other states have “domestic partnerships” laws, which offer a handful of state marriage benefits. However, 42 states still prohibit gay marriages and 26 states have laws forbidding same sex unions.

The survey also found that young people, women, college graduates, and political liberals are more likely to report that a close friend or family member is gay.

But significantly fewer men, political conservatives, and older Americans claim to have a homosexual friend or family member.

Overall, about 4 in 10 Americans say they have a close relationship with a gay or lesbian person.

People who listed themselves as secular or mainline Protestants were most likely to have a gay friend or family member. White evangelicals and Hispanic Catholics were least likely to say they know someone who is
gay.

The poll also confirmed that people living in southern states or rural areas are slightly less likely to know gay people than those living in urban areas or in the northeast or west.

Unsurprisingly, the study also shows that familiarity is closely linked to tolerance. People who have a gay friend or family member were twice as likely to support gay marriage and reject the idea that schools should be able to fire gay teachers.

The survey sampled 2,007 randomly selected respondents. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.