One in five Britons opposes gay marriage

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
October 04, 2011, 4:57 PM GMT+0

One in five British people opposes both marriage and civil partnerships for homosexual couples, our poll has found, with no majority view either way on the issue.

  • 46% would support same-sex marriage
  • 28% support civil partnerships but oppose same-sex marriage
  • 17% oppose both civil partnerships and same-sex marriage

Liberal Democrats, women, and younger people are more likely to favour same-sex marriage than other groups.

  • 60% of Liberal Democrat voters support same-sex marriage compared to 37% of Conservatives
  • 8% of Liberal Democrats say that they are opposed to both same-sex marriage and civil partnerships compared to nearly a quarter (23%) of Conservative voters
  • 40% of men support same-sex marriage compared to 51% of women
  • While men (23%) are almost twice as likely than women (12%) to oppose both types of union
  • 62% of those aged 18 to 24 would support same-sex marriage, compared to 27% of those over 60
  • Just 7% of 18-24 year-olds oppose both, compared to 27% of the over 60s

Same-sex civil partnerships have been legal in the UK since 2005, and offer same-sex couples the same rights as marriage. However, same-sex couples cannot enter into ‘marriage’, and straight couples cannot enter into a civil partnership. Despite the similarities in rights, supporters of same-sex marriage still feel that symbolically, equality has not yet been won, with many perceiving civil partnership to be an inferior option.

However, religious groups are often the most prominent opponents of same-sex marriage, with clerics repeatedly stating that the long-held definition of marriage is that of a union between a man and a woman.

Changing the system

Couples opposing the distinction between marriage and civil partnership have variously attempted to circumvent the laws, with straight couples attempting to gain a civil partnership, amid cases of gay couples marrying abroad and then attempting to gain legal recognition in this country upon their return. All attempts have been unsuccessful thus far, but last month the Coalition Government announced plans to introduce same-sex marriage before the next General Election, while at this year’s Liberal Democrat conference Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone said that the current laws are ‘simply not fair’. The Government has said it is committed to changing the law before 2015.

On a BBC Radio 4 programme on the issue, Gary O'Donoghue welcomed the proposed changes, saying that they will ‘enable same-sex couples the recognition and same label as heterosexual marriages, whilst conferring a bigger and more moral idea than something like a civil partnership’, but several Tories oppose the move, with former Conservative cabinet minister Lord Tebbit saying ‘I would have thought there were other priorities at a time like this. There can be no such thing as gay marriage. Marriage is between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others.'

Same-sex marriage is still a divisive issue around the world, with views varying hugely from country to country, and even within countries. In the US, New York is the most recent state to confer the right to marriage on same-sex couples, but over 40 states still do not recognise the act.

Similarly, it seems that despite decisive words from politicians in the UK, British opinion on the controversial issue is still not quite clear cut.

See the survey details and full results here