A slim majority of Pennsylvania voters supports legalizing gay marriage, an issue that will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court next month.
Fifty-two percent support gay marriage, a Franklin & Marshall poll made public Thursday shows, up from 33 percent support measured by the college in a 2006 poll. The increased support mirrors a national trend and the results of a Morning Call/Muhlenberg College poll in December 2011.
Muhlenberg pollster Chris Borick has been watching views on gay marriage shift dramatically. Support rose from 35 percent in 2004, to 42 percent in 2009, to 52 percent in 2011. In polling terms, he said, that's "meteoric."
It's also largely generational. Of Pennsylvanians younger than 35, 79 percent support gay marriage, while those over 55 back gay marriage by 42 percent, said G. Terry Madonna, pollster for F&M in Lancaster.
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"I think in 25 years this is not going to be much of an issue," Madonna said.
The issue has seen significant turning points in just the last year. President Barack Obama voiced his support for gay marriage ahead of the 2012 election, the national Democrats added it to their party platform and the president's inaugural address last month was the first to include mention of gay rights.
At the end of March, the Supreme Court will hear arguments over the constitutionality of two laws, one federal and one from California, that define marriage as between one man and one woman. Nine states — Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington — have legalized gay marriage.
Adrian Shanker of Bethlehem, president of Equality Pennsylvania, a nonprofit that advocates for gay equality, said Pennsylvanians and most Americans, particularly younger ones, are now viewing the gay marriage issue as a matter of civil rights.
"In six years, which is not that long in terms of public opinion on most issues, we've just seen a sea change," he said. "I think hearts and minds have been changing. ... Those who actively oppose it are shrinking every single day."
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