78% say Britain is tolerant of gay and lesbian people; public divided over same-sex marriage
When considering how accepting Britain is of gay and lesbian people, the general consensus among the public is that Britain is a tolerant country, our poll shows. Almost half of Britons say they would support same-sex marriage, and the majority say that same-sex and heterosexual relationships are equally as valid, while over a quarter say gay relationships are not as valid.
- A significant majority (78%) say that as a country, Britain is tolerant of gay and lesbian people (16% very tolerant, 62% fairly tolerant)
- Meanwhile 18% say Britain is intolerant (3% very intolerant, 15% fairly intolerant)
- 62% say same-sex relationships are just as valid as heterosexual ones, while 27% say gay relationships are not as valid
- 43% of Britons say they would support same-sex marriage
- A third (32%) support civil partnerships, but are opposed to same-sex marriage
- 16% oppose both civil partnerships and same-sex marriage
There is a consistent divide between older and younger generations on the issue of same-sex relationships, their validity, and the right to marriage.
- 75% of those aged 18-25 say same-sex relationships are just as valid, next to 49% of people over 60 years of age
- Over twice as many people over 60 agree with those aged 18-24 that same-sex relationships aren't as valid as straight ones (41% vs 18%)
'Marriage is an institution'?
Almost half of Britons say the Church of England is right to believe marriage is an institution designed for man-woman couples only, while 2 in 5 say those opposed to gay marriage are encouraging homophobia
- Almost half of Britons (47%) say the Church of England is right to defend marriage as an institution for just heterosexual couples
- 37% say the Church is wrong to do so
- 40% say the language being used by those opposed to gay marriage is encouraging homophobia, whilst a third (32%) think it is not
- 69% of people over 60 years say that the Church of England is right to defend marriage as exclusive for heterosexual couples, while only 28% of those aged 18-25 agree
In a recent letter published by Archbishop Vincent Nicholls and Archbiship Peter Smith, the two religious leaders explain their opinion that changing the nature of marriage would be a "profoundly radical step" that would reduce its effectiveness and significance.
Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged that he would fully legalise same-sex marriage by the year 2015, adding that churches will not have to perform weddings if they choose not to. The large majority feel that Cameron's pledge to legalise same-sex marriage was only done for political reasons rather than personal beliefs.
- The majority (63%) believe he "does not actually think that gay marriage is right", but rather he is "doing it for political reasons"
- Conversely, 21% say he has pledged this because "he genuinely believed that it is right thing to do"
The PM has faced backlash after his pledge, particularly from the Church of England, who accused Cameron of "cultural vandalism". They argue their belief that marriage is an institution intended only for a man and woman.
Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone said the government was entitled to introduce same-sex marriages as a "change for the better" towards promoting a fair society where people respect each other. Featherstone also warned the church against polarising the debate, stating that the Church does not "own" marriage.