Support for same-sex civil unions is on the rise with nearly three in five Americans currently favoring it.
A new Pew Research Center survey shows 57 percent of Americans favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into civil unions, or legal agreements that would give them many of the same rights as married couples.
Last year 54 percent favored it, and six years ago only 45 percent supported it.
Opposition to same-sex civil unions has, meanwhile, continued to slip with 37 percent against it, down from 47 percent in 2003.
The Pew survey, however, found little change in attitudes on same-sex marriage. More than half (53 percent) of Americans oppose marriage for gay and lesbian couples and 39 percent favor it. In 2003, 53 percent opposed and 38 percent favored gay and lesbian marriage.
Among those who oppose same-sex marriage, 30 percent say they would support civil unions.
The steady opposition to gay marriage may be reflective of the public's values. Americans are more likely to say homosexual behavior is morally wrong than not. Nearly half of the public (49 percent) says it is morally wrong and 9 percent of Americans say it is morally acceptable. Thirty-five percent say it is not a moral issue.
Glenn Stanton, director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family, told CitizenLink that many people affirm traditional marriage because "they know intuitively the value of marriage."
But while most Americans seem satisfied with allowing only civil unions to same-sex couples, Stanton says the battle won't stop there.
Citing the recent marriage battle in California over an amendment affirming traditional marriage, Stanton noted, "They said that even though same-sex partners have all the rights and benefits of marriage in California except the name, they said that it is still, basically, 'Back of the bus.' It's still discrimination."
"It is going to be marriage, or it's going to be nothing," he said, according to CitizenLink.
According to the Pew Center's findings, 45 percent say supporters of same-sex marriage should push hard to legalize gay marriage as soon as possible. At the same time, 42 percent say they shouldn't push too hard because it could create bad feelings against homosexuals.
Notably, most Americans (64 percent) say gays and lesbians face more discrimination than any other group, including Muslims (58 percent), Hispanics (52 percent), blacks (49 percent), women (37 percent), Jews (35 percent), evangelical Christians (27 percent), atheists (26 percent) and Mormons (24 percent).
Results for this survey are based on telephone interviews conducted under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International among a nationwide sample of 4,013 adults, 18 years of age or older. Interviews were conducted Aug. 11-17 and Aug. 20-27.