Following an election that saw voters in three states - Maine, Maryland, and Washington - approve measures to legalize same-sex marriage, a new CBS News Poll finds 51 percent of Americans nationwide think same-sex marriage should be legal, while four in 10 do not.
With the addition of these three states, same-sex marriage will become legal in nine states plus the District of Columbia. Also, Minnesota voters rejected an amendment to their state's constitution that would have defined marriage as only between a man and a woman. As the debate over same-sex marriage continues at the ballot box and in state legislatures, the Supreme Court Friday considered whether to weigh in on the issue. The court could announce as early as Monday whether it will review court challenges to the federal Defense of Marriage Act or the ruling against California's same-sex marriage ban.
The American public's views on allowing same-sex couples to marry are the same as they were in September, but support for same-sex marriage has risen since the spring and summer of this year.
There is a generational divide on this issue. Young Americans (those ages 18-29) are some of the strongest proponents of allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. Seventy-two percent of them support it, as do a majority --albeit a smaller one-- of Americans ages 30-44. However, support for same-sex marriage drops to 44 percent among those who are age 45-64 and even further to just a third of Americans age 65 and over. In fact, 56 percent of seniors oppose permitting same-sex couples to marry.
The CBS News Poll also finds more women (53 percent) than men (48 percent) think same-sex marriage should be legal. Women voters were instrumental in getting the ballot measures legalizing same-sex marriage passed. According to exit polls conducted in each of the three states, majorities of women approved of the same-sex marriage initiatives, while men opposed them.
Nationwide, opinions on same-sex marriage also differ by marital status. Married Americans are divided in their views, while 57 percent of unmarried Americans support allowing same-sex couples to marry.