Broad support for New York gay marriage bill: poll

NEW YORK Mon Apr 20, 2009 2:33pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A majority of New Yorkers support a bill legalizing gay marriage, according to a poll released on Monday, but the measure still faces an uphill battle in the state legislature.

By a margin of 53 to 39 percent, New York voters said they backed Governor David Paterson's proposal enabling same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses, said the poll by the Siena Research Institute at Siena College in Loudonville, New York.

"We put the bill out because there are 1,324 protections that people who are married receive legally, like the ability to make medical decisions for one's spouse that you can't have if you're not married," Paterson said when asked by reporters about the poll.

Paterson, a Democrat who introduced the bill last week, said many New Yorkers saw the matter as "an equality issue."

Voters in every region of the state support allowing gay marriage, with residents of New York City, women and voters under the age of 34 strong backers of changing the law, the poll found.

The bill has broad support in New York's lower house, the assembly, where Democrats have a comfortable majority. But the party holds a slim majority in the Senate, and several Democratic senators have said they will vote against it.

New York Republicans generally oppose the legislation as do large numbers of older and African-American voters, the poll found. It said 53 percent of Protestants were opposed to the measure, with 41 percent in favor. Catholics backed it by a margin of 49 to 41 percent.

If the bill became law, New York would follow Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and Iowa in legalizing gay marriage. New Hampshire and Maine, which offer same-sex couples some form of legal recognition, also are considering bills to do so.

California briefly recognized gay marriage until voters banned it in a referendum last year.

Forty-three U.S. states have laws explicitly prohibiting gay marriage, including 29 with constitutional amendments restricting marriage to unions between a man and woman.

The telephone survey poll was conducted among 682 New York State registered voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

(Additional reporting by Joan Gralla, editing by Michelle Nichols and Paul Simao)

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