Poll: Most Americans View Gay Marriage as Civil Rights Issue

A majority of Americans view same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue, according to a new poll by LifeWay Research. Most also believe its legalization in the United States is inevitable.

The findings showed that 58 percent of respondents believe that homosexuality is a civil rights issue like age, race and gender, while 29 percent disagreed with that statement. Sixty-four percent believe same-sex marriage will inevitably become legalized throughout the U.S., while 24 percent disagreed.

"Clearly, Americans believe the prerogative exists for individuals such as clergy or photographers to deny services for same-sex marriage," said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. "However, the level of agreement changes with scenarios that could be interpreted as more basic rights such as housing and employment."

Younger Americans are more likely to view homosexuality as a civil rights issue; 65 percent of those aged 18-29 agreed that homosexuality is such an issue.

Other notable statistics from the study revealed that 63 percent of Americans agree that pastors should be allowed to make their own decisions on whether to officiate same-sex weddings, regardless of whether the practice is legal in their state or not. Fifty-eight percent believe photographers should be allowed to refuse to work same-sex weddings if they are made legal in their state. Meanwhile, a large majority, or 82 percent, said employers should not be allowed to refuse employment to someone based on their sexual orientation.

"While a majority of Americans categorize homosexuality as a civil rights issue like age, race and gender, and almost two-thirds think legalization of same-sex marriage in the U.S. is [inevitable], the research does show lines and divisions on these issues clearly exist in our country," Stetzer added.

The survey, which was conducted in November 2012 and sampled 1,191 Americans, provides a 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed +2.9 percent.

LifeWay's poll comes only two weeks before the Supreme Court meets to discuss two important cases regarding same-sex marriage on March 26 and March 27, which might decide the future of traditional marriage in the U.S.

The justices will review cases relating to the federal Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8, the 2008 California law that banned same-sex marriage in the state.

Conservative groups have spoken out in favor of traditional marriage as defined between one man and one woman, but President Barack Obama has argued against both laws. Former president Bill Clinton, who signed DOMA into law in 1997, also argued in favor of overturning the federal marriage law.

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