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Poll: Americans support gay rights

A Harris Interactive poll released Dec. 3 found that Americans support a range of policies and protections for gay people.

The Pulse of Equality survey, commissioned by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, found that majorities of Americans favor either marriage or civil unions for gay couples, hate crime laws to protect gay and transgender people, letting gays in the military serve openly, and allowing gays and lesbians to adopt children.

The telephone survey questioned 2,000 adults between Nov. 13 and 17 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Among the specific findings:

* Seventy-five percent of U.S. adults favor either marriage or domestic partnerships/civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. Only 22 percent oppose any legal recognition of gay couples.

* U.S. adults are evenly divided on whether gay couples should have access to marriage - 47 percent say yes and 49 percent say no.

* Sixty-four percent think gays in the military should not have to stay closeted, as required by the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

* Sixty-three percent support expanding hate crime laws to cover gay and transgender people. At present, 31 states and the District of Columbia have such laws that cover sexual orientation and 12 of those laws also encompass gender identity.

* Fifty-one percent favor protecting gay and transgender people under existing laws that ban discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have such laws that cover sexual orientation and 13 of those laws also encompass gender identity.

* Sixty-nine percent oppose bans on gay adoption.

"We observed a positive relationship between knowing a gay or transgender person and one's attitudes toward them and the policy issues that affect their lives," said Laura Light, Harris Interactive's vice president of public relations research.

"Based on other surveys we have conducted on attitudes toward LGBT people and issues, the results of this survey suggest that public sentiment in the U.S. is trending toward greater acceptance of gay- and transgender-related policy issues."

The survey found that people under 65, and especially those 18-34, are more gay-friendly than people over 65. Women are generally more supportive than men. Latinos are more supportive than whites and blacks when it comes to gays in the military. Blacks are more supportive than whites and Latinos on hate-crime laws. And Catholics and "mainline" Christians (Protestant, Mormon or "other Christian") are more supportive than "born-again" Protestants, Mormons or other Christians.

Nineteen percent of those questioned said their feelings toward gay people have become more favorable over the past five years. They attributed the change to such things as knowing someone who is gay, seeing gay people on TV and in movies, passage of gay-friendly laws, news coverage of gay issues, and learning of the gay-friendly positions of friends, family members and religious leaders.

"Knowing someone who is gay or lesbian" was the most significant factor, cited by 79 percent of those whose feelings had evolved.

 See Poll: Americans support gay rights
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