Gay Tolerance in U.S. Reaching Record Marks

( [email protected] ) May 30, 2007 04:49 AM EDT

Pro-gay rights attitudes have reached high points this year, according to a new poll, with more Americans expressing tolerance.

Today, 57 percent of the American public believes homosexuality should be sanctioned as an acceptable alternative lifestyle ?the highest the Gallup Poll has recorded since 1982. Also indicating higher tolerance, 59 percent of Americans believe homosexual relations should be legal.

The Gallup Poll has recorded a general increase over the past 20 years of those who believe homosexual relations should be legal. The statistic reached an all-time high in May 2003 at 60 percent but then fell to 50 percent in July of that year and has remained level through 2005. A June 2003 Supreme Court decision that struck down a Texas law banning homosexual sodomy appeared to have produced a backlash of public opposition to gay rights, the Gallup report noted. The leveled trend began rising again last year with 56 percent saying homosexual relations should be legal and today, the statistic is nearly at the record 60 percent mark.

Revealing a long-term increase in pro-gay rights attitudes, 46 percent (up from 27 percent in 1996) believe same-sex couples should be recognized by the law as valid with the same rights as traditional marriages. And the percentage of those who say they should not be recognized by the law as valid fell from 68 percent in 1996 to 53 percent today.

On the question of morality, Americans were found to be nearly evenly divided. Since 2001, the percentage of those who say homosexual relations are morally acceptable has increased from 40 percent to 47 percent. And for the first time in the 21st century, less than the majority of Americans say homosexual relations are morally wrong (49 percent). Last year, 51 percent said such relations are morally wrong.

At the same time, the majority of Americans say sex between an unmarried man and woman (59 percent), divorce (65 percent), and having a baby outside or marriage (54 percent) is morally acceptable.

As debates continue over the origin or cause of homosexuality, the Gallup Poll found that an increasing percentage of Americans believe homosexuality is something a person is born with. The poll showed 42 percent express such a view compared to 13 percent in 1977. And the percentage of Americans who believe homosexuality is due to factors such as upbringing and environment fell from 56 percent in 1977 to 35 percent today.

Among those who believe homosexuals are born that way, 78 percent say homosexuality should be considered an acceptable lifestyle. In contrast, among those who believe homosexuality is caused by upbringing or environmental factors, only 30 percent say it should be acceptable.

Gallup's results support other surveys that indicate more open and accepting attitudes among today's young adults. A recent Pew survey found 58 percent of 18-25-year-olds say homosexuality should be accepted.

The Gallup Poll found younger Americans aged 18-34 years old (75 percent) are more likely to express the same view than older Americans aged 55 years and older (45 percent). Women (61 percent) are also more likely than men (53 percent) to say homosexuality should be an acceptable alternative lifestyle, the poll further found. And highly religious Americans who attend church weekly (33 percent) are less likely to say it's an acceptable lifestyle than those who seldom or never attend church (74 percent).

Results from the Gallup Poll are based on telephone interviews with 1,003 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 10-13, 2007.