WASHINGTON -- Just more than half of Americans say gay couples should not be allowed to marry, according to an Associated Press poll. But just as many say gay partners should have some legal rights of a married couple -- such as inheritance, Social Security benefits and health insurance.
More women than men feel gay marriage is OK. So do more Democrats than Republicans, more young people than old, more people who feel gays are born with that sexual orientation.
Jeanne McFarlane, a 57-year-old retiree from Plantation in South Florida, said in an interview, "The ideal of marriage is family, and a child needs both sexes to be brought up properly." But she also said gay partners should get typical benefits.
The poll, conducted for the AP by ICR of Media, Pa., found that 51 percent were opposed to allowing gay couples to marry, while 34 percent approved.
Half the respondents were asked the question a bit differently -- whether they approved of allowing gays to form a "domestic partnership" that would give them the rights and benefits of opposite-sex marriage.
In that question, which did not refer to "gay marriage," the number that approved allowing such a relationship grew slightly to 41 percent, while the opposition was almost half.
The AP poll found that at least half of Americans support the rights of gays to receive health insurance (53 percent), Social Security benefits (50 percent) and inheritance (56 percent) from their partners.
The governor of Vermont signed a law in April that allowed gay couples to form "civil unions" with the same benefits and rights as civil marriage. Vermont was the first state in the nation to pass such a law, which was separate and distinct from the state's marriage statutes.
A Vermont poll by ORC Macro of Burlington, Vt., found that about a third favored gay marriage, and more than half opposed it.
In the AP poll, a fourth of men, compared with four in 10 women, said gay marriage should be allowed. One in five Republicans favored such …