More than half of Americans say marriage for gays and lesbians should be legal, Gallup reported. This is the first time a majority of Americans indicated support for same-sex marriage.
Since tracking the issue in 1996, Gallup found most Americans on the opposing side of legalizing gay marriage every year until this year. Friday's report reveals that now 53 percent of the public thinks marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized by law as valid. Forty-five percent are against it.
That marks a reversal from the year before when 53 percent said gay marriage should not be legalized and 44 percent said it should.
Gallup recorded the nine-percentage-point increase in support for same-sex marriage as the largest year-to-year shift yet.
While the younger generation of Americans had always indicated more support for gay marriage compared to older generations, the latest poll revealed a whopping 16 percent increase over the last year among 18- to 34-year-olds in support of letting homosexual couples wed.
Seventy percent of the younger cohort said gays and lesbians should be able to marry. Last year, 54 percent said so.
The latest poll confirms what one preeminent evangelical had expected all along – that gay marriage would become normalized in American society.
"I think it's clear that something like same-sex marriage is going to become normalized, legalized and recognized in the culture," said Dr. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. "It's time for Christians to start thinking about how we're going to deal with that."
He made the comments in February during an interview with Focus on the Family.
He clarified that Christians are not giving up when it comes to preserving traditional marriage, as God had ordained it (between a man and a woman), but he stressed that Christians need to start learning how to deal with the shifting culture.
"We have to prepare our children to be in a context in which they're going to be in a playground with children who have two dads or two moms or who knows what kind of combination will come," Mohler stated.
"It's interesting now that the world is so morally upside down that when we talk about marriage we have to make a distinction between natural marriage – heterosexual marriage – and this new thing that people are calling marriage."
The Gallup poll found support for legal same-sex marriage to be higher among those who attend church less frequently, among Catholics than among Protestants, and among those who are unmarried.
Results for the Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted May 5-8, 2011, with a random sample of 1,018 adults, aged 18 and older.