Most Americans Say States Should Decide on Same-Sex Marriage, Poll Finds

Even as the Supreme Court is expected to decide on two key same-sex marriage cases this month, a new poll found that the majority of Americans say the federal government should leave it to states to decide whether same-sex marriage should be legal.

A New York Times/CBS News poll asked 1,022 Americans whether same-sex marriage rights should be "determined by the federal government or left to each individual state government to decide," and 60 percent of them said it should be the states' prerogative.

Only 33 percent said the federal government should have the right to decide. However, 56 percent of the respondents also said they are in favor of equal treatment for gay people who are already legally married. And 39 percent said they are against it.

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The poll, conducted from May 31 to June 4 and released Thursday, also found that 51 percent of Americans favor marriage rights for gay people, while 44 percent said they oppose it. But the support for same-sex marriage increases to 68 percent among Americans under 30, while it plunges to 32 percent among those who are 65 or older.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule this month on the constitutionality of California's ban and the Defense of Marriage Act to consider the claim that gays and lesbians have a fundamental right to marry. Both the cases dwell on the issue of state-versus-federal authority.

DOMA forbids federal recognition of same-sex marriage and protects states where gay marriage is not legalized from having to recognize such unions from the states where it is legal. The legislation, which seeks to encourage responsible procreation and child-bearing and defend traditional heterosexual marriage, was passed by both houses of Congress by large majorities and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996.

The California ban, or Proposition 8, is a state ballot proposition and a state constitutional amendment passed in the November 2008 state elections which provides that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

Gay marriage is legal in 12 states and the District of Columbia. These states include Delaware, Minnesota and Rhode Island where the measure has yet to take effect.

Meanwhile, a Pew Research Center survey, released Thursday, found that 72 percent of Americans say that legal recognition of same-sex marriage is "inevitable." This includes 85 percent of gay marriage supporters, as well as 59 percent of its opponents.

Pew said that their polling found for the first time that just over half of Americans (51 percent) say they are in favor of allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally.

However, the issue remains divisive, with 42 percent opposing legalizing same-sex marriage, Pew added, noting that opposition to gay marriage is "rooted in religious attitudes, such as the belief that engaging in homosexual behavior is a sin."

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