Americans are slightly more supportive of same-sex marriage today than in the past couple of years, a new Gallup poll found.
Forty-four percent of Americans say marriage between same-sex couples should be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriage, up four percent compared to 2009 and 2008.
This year's figure is the second highest level of support for gay marriage since Gallup began asking the question in 1996. The poll's all-time-high support for gay marriage occurred in 2007 at 46 percent.
Despite the slight rise in support this year, the poll found that most Americans remain opposed to gay marriage. Fifty-three percent of Americans say same-sex marriage should not be valid nor given the same rights as traditional marriages.
Not surprisingly, Americans who say religion is "very important" in their lives are among the groups most likely to oppose legal same-sex marriage. Seventy percent of those who say religion is very important in their life are against gay marriage, as opposed to 27 percent of those who say religion is not important.
Americans who are unaffiliated are highly likely to support legal gay marriage (81 percent), compared to Catholics (48 percent) and Protestants (33 percent).
Across the political spectrum, support for same-sex marriage has significantly increased since 1996. This year, the majority (56 percent) of Americans who are Democrats believe same-sex marriage should be legal, up from 33 percent in 1996. Support from political Independents have also seen a sharp rise, from 32 percent to 49 percent over the same time period.
And even among Republicans support for gay marriage has increased over the past 15 years. The support was at 16 percent in 1996 and is now at 28 percent.
Recently, former first lady Laura Bush revealed on CNN that she supports allowing gays and lesbians to marry.
"[W]hen couples are committed to each other and love each other, that they ought to have, I think, the same sort of rights that everyone has," she said.
Though a growing number of subgroups now show majority support for the legalization of gay marriage, religious and conservative populations are still strongly opposed to it. Since these groups make up a larger part of the population than nonreligious and liberal groups in the country, Americans overall are found to be against same-sex marriage, the report explained.
Gay marriage is currently legal in one federal district and five states. Last fall, Washington, D.C., joined Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont in recognizing same-sex marriage.
But earlier in May, opponents of same-sex marriage in Washington, D.C., took their case to the appeals court arguing that residents, rather than legislators, should have the right to vote on legalizing such relationships. The Court of Appeals heard the case on May 4 and is expected to make its decision some time this year.