A recent poll released this week shows that the majority of American voters do not want their state to allow gay marriage.
Fifty-five percent of voters oppose a law in their state allowing same-sex couples to marry, according to an April 30 poll of more than 2,000 registered voters by Quinnipiac University.
Moreover, half of American voters support the federal law allowing states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
The 1996 Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), enacted under the Clinton administration, provides that states need not recognize same-sex marriages from another state.
Fewer Americans, however, support the second DOMA provision which defines marriage as between one man and one woman and bans the federal government from recognizing gay marriage for any purpose, including eligibility for federal benefits.
Fifty-four percent of voters say the federal law denying federal spousal benefits to gay and lesbian partners should be repealed.
Also, 57 percent support same-sex civil unions and 53 percent favor allowing same-sex couples to adopt children.
"Americans have nuanced and at times inconsistent views about gay rights issues," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in the report.
"In general, Americans tend to be more supportive when it comes to narrow equity questions like serving in the military or collecting federal benefits," he noted. (Fifty-six percent of voters say the ban on openly gay men and women in the military should be repealed.)
"But they are less accepting of more philosophical issues such as equating gay rights with civil rights for blacks and the belief that people are born gay rather than it being a choice," said Brown.
According to the Quinnipiac poll, half of surveyed voters say ending discrimination against homosexuals is as necessary today as ending discrimination against blacks was in the 1960s. But less than half (45 percent) agree that not allowing same-sex couples to get married is discrimination.
Also, 42 percent of American voters say people are born gay or lesbian while 36 percent say it is a choice. And according to Brown, 65 percent of those who think people are born gay support legalized gay marriage compared to 15 percent among those who say being gay is a personal choice.
In other findings, 39 percent of American voters say same-sex marriage is a threat to traditional marriage between a man and a woman. Evangelicals (57 percent) and Protestants (47 percent) were the only religious groups more likely than the total surveyed Americans to say it is a threat. Catholics (34 percent) and Jews (8 percent) were less likely to agree.
When it comes to who should decide whether same-sex marriage should be legal, 43 percent of voters say their state legislature should decide and 25 percent say the courts should. Only 16 percent say neither should make the decision.
Vermont became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage last month through legislative action. Same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa were legalized through the state courts. More recently, Maine's and New Hampshire's Senates passed gay marriage bills this week.