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Majority of Californians say they would vote for same-sex marriage, poll shows

July 21, 2010 |  1:45 pm

If a vote similar to Proposition 8 upholding a ban on same-sex marriage were held tomorrow, a majority of Californians say they would cast ballots in favor of allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, according to a survey released Wednesday.

The poll was conducted in English and Spanish by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Public Religion Research Institute, an organization focused on religion and values. It was based on random phone interviews with more than 3,300 Californians over a two-week period in late June, examining the religious-based attitudes toward same-sex marriage two years after Proposition 8 was approved.

The survey comes as California awaits a decision from a U.S. district court judge on whether Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution. It also included views toward gays and lesbians adopting children, openly serving in the military and workplace discrimination against homosexuals.

One in four Californians reported that their views on rights for gay and lesbian people had become more supportive over the last five years, compared with 8% who said they had become more opposed, the poll revealed.

Meanwhile, 29% of Californians polled said they believed Proposition 8 was bad for the state, compared with 22% who believed it was “a good thing.”

A total of 51% of Californians said they would vote to allow homosexuals to marry if a vote similar to Proposition 8 were held tomorrow, compared with 45% who said they would vote to keep same-sex marriage illegal, the survey showed.

“We have some good evidence here of the way the wind is blowing … in a more positive direction for the rights of gays and lesbians,” said Robert P. Jones, chief executive officer of the Public Religion Research Institute.

The poll highlighted shifting attitudes within the black community, divisions among Latinos, the influence of the clergy on parishioners and insights into the role of religion in shaping the Proposition 8 debate.

Among religious groups, ethnic minorities showed slightly more overall attitudinal changes than white religious groups, Jones said.

For example, twice as many black Protestants, or 27%, indicated they had become more supportive of homosexual rights, compared with 13% who indicated they had become more opposed.

Among Latino Catholics, 31% had become more supportive of gay rights issues compared with 9% who had become more opposed.

Jones said clergy played a strong role in influencing views on gay rights, since messages about homosexuality propagated at places of worship proved to correlate with parishioners’ views on same-sex marriage.

For example, among Californians who reported hearing negative messages from their clergy, only 19% said they supported same-sex marriage, and nearly half rejected legal recognition of the relationships between gay couples.

In contrast, among Californians who heard positive messages at their places of worship, six in 10 said marriages between homosexuals should be allowed.

An additional 22% said they supported civil unions, and only 18% opposed legal recognition of same-sex relationships, according to the survey.

“The role of religion is very helpful in clarifying the landscape,” Jones said.

-- Ann M. Simmons

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