Survey finds majority of Americans supports benefits for same-sex couples

63 per cent approve of gay marriage or civil unions

Opponents of a bill to legalise gay marriage in Minnesota gathered in the State Capitol, Rotunda, to voice their opposition. Photograph: AP/Jim Mone

Opponents of a bill to legalise gay marriage in Minnesota gathered in the State Capitol, Rotunda, to voice their opposition. Photograph: AP/Jim Mone

Wed, Jun 26, 2013, 16:48

As the US Supreme Court prepares to decide whether the federal government may deny benefits to same-sex married couples that it allows their heterosexual counterparts, Americans seem already to have made up their minds.

Fifty-five per cent of those surveyed said married gay and lesbian couples should be able to qualify for social security survivor payments and other benefits provided to married heterosexual couples, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling of 2,886 people between March 5th and March 14th.

Majority support for such benefits was seen across all regions of the United States, even in the traditionally more conservative south.

That widespread support emerges just before the Supreme Court takes up a pair of momentous gay rights cases next week, one testing whether the US government may deny benefits to same-sex married couples without violating the US Constitution’s guarantee of equality. In the other case, the nine justices will review a California law that defines marriage as existing between a man and a woman only.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll of 24,455 people between January 1st and March 14th found only a quarter of Americans opposed same-sex marriage or civil unions, although there were deep regional differences of opinion.

Overall, that Reuters poll found 63 per cent supported gay marriage or civil unions, with 41 per cent of people saying same-sex couples should be permitted to marry.

The greatest support was in the northeast, with 69 percent of adults favouring a gay marriage or civil-union right. The lowest support was in the south, at 57 per cent.

Overall, surveys have shown a drop in endorsement of civil unions simultaneous to a rise in support of same-sex marriage.

Long-term trend
“While there is some divergence between those who support legalising civil unions versus marriage, these groups are both likely to sit on the same side of the fence on the issue if pushed to a decision,” said Julia Clark, Ipsos vice-president. “The long-term trend shows steady movement toward a majority of Americans supporting the legalisation of same-sex marriage.”

The support for equal federal benefits in the Reuters/Ipsos poll suggests a majority of people believe the federal government should not discriminate among couples based on sexual orientation. Those views were not tied to respondents’ own sexual preferences. The overwhelming majority of people who took part in the poll, 93 percent, described themselves as heterosexual. Nine states and the District of Columbia permit same-sex marriage. Eight other states allow civil unions or domestic partnerships with virtually all state marriage benefits, but not marriage. – (Reuters)