SACRAMENTO – A new poll finds that for the first time in the state's history, a slim majority of voters supports same-sex marriage, which the state Supreme Court declared legal this month.
According to the nonpartisan Field Poll, 51 percent of California registered voters favor allowing same-sex couples to marry, 42 percent are opposed and 7 percent have no opinion.
Support for same-sex marriage has steadily increased during the 30 years that the Field Poll has surveyed voters on the issue. But this is the first time more voters expressed support than opposition.
“This is in many ways a historic poll,” said Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo. “It's a very significant moment.”
The poll also found voters are not inclined to support an amendment to the California Constitution banning same-sex marriage, such as the one targeted for the November ballot. Only 40 percent of those surveyed said they favored such a measure, 54 percent were opposed and 6 percent had no opinion.
The survey showed big differences in opinion on keeping same-sex marriage legal. Supporters include younger voters, Democrats, liberals and residents of Los Angeles or the San Francisco Bay Area. Opposed were older voters, Republicans, conservatives, residents of the Central Valley and Southern California counties besides Los Angeles, including San Diego and Orange counties.
Women and men support allowing same-sex marriage, though men less so. Women are in favor, 53 percent to 39 percent, with 8 percent having no opinion. Support among men is 48 percent to 44 percent, with 8 percent having no opinion.
In 2006, the last Field Poll on the issue, 44 percent approved of same-sex marriage and 50 percent disapproved.
Since then, several things have happened.
Last fall, a gay-rights group, Equality California, conducted a campaign that included television and Internet advertising along with house parties in support of making same-sex marriage legal.
Most significant, the state Supreme Court on May 15 ruled 4-3 that statutes banning same-sex marriage violate the right to marry embodied in the state constitution.
The decision overturned a law passed by the Legislature in 1977 and Proposition 22 approved by 61 percent of California voters in 2000. The ruling made California the second state after Massachusetts to legalize same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriages may begin in the state as early as June 14.
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