The Pew Research Center released a new poll Thursday that shows the culture war over same-sex marriage won't be cooling down anytime soon.
The survey – titled "The Generation Gap and the 2012 Election" – is part of a wider study gauging generational changes among Americans on social and political issues before the next presidential election. The section on same-sex marriage shows that Americans are nearing a deadlock on the issue, with 46 percent of those surveyed favoring legalization of same-sex marriage and 44 percent opposing it.
"This is a trend I've been watching unfold for the last ten years," said S. Michael Craven, president and founder of the Center for Christ & Culture on Friday. "Our culture is crossing a boundary concerning absolute monogamy. We're eroding what has historically proven to be the essential institution for a healthy society – the family."
Carroll Doherty, Pew's associate director, said his organization conducted three telephone surveys of approximately 5,000 people nationwide to obtain the poll's results. Questions were asked across age groups, beginning with the "Silent Generation" born between 1966 and 1983 and ending with "Millennials" born between 1981 and 1993.
Though support for same-sex marriage increased along all four categories, he said younger generations supported marriage for gays and lesbians more often than their elders.
"The overall trend we've identified is that support for gay marriage is almost 50-50 now," Doherty said. "This has been a gradual change over time, but typically younger generations are more positive about changes like this."
Craven said it's a statistic that should give Americans pause. He said that protecting marriage as a union between one man and one woman was essential for enforcing social mores and producing successful, stable family units. Changing marriage's definition, he said, would diminish its value.
"Traditional marriage corresponds with the way we were made" said Craven, who has been married to his wife for 21 years. "Nature's law has proven over and over again that children are more successful when raised by a biological father and a biological mother."
Sue Hyde, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's director of creating change conference, claimed additional support for same-sex unions would come as more Americans observed gay families firsthand. Over time, she said, same-sex marriage might be legalized nationwide like interracial marriage years before.
"It is irrational to let people get married in one state and then not recognize it in another," said Hyde, a married lesbian. "Gay and lesbian families pose no threat to other families. We are neighbors and co-workers doing the very best we can to raise our children the best we can."
Dr. Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said trying to portray same-sex marriages as a "live-and-let-live" institution was a misleading characterization. Citing older civilization's respect for traditional marriage's sanctity, he said it was beneficial on a biological, social and moral level.
"Traditional marriage has been the building block of human society," Land said. "God created marriage and gives children one mother and one father to parent differently but in equally important ways. He knows how it works. The Christian community should portray Biblical truth on this issue."