Record number of Britons support same-sex marriage 10 years after key vote

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
July 03, 2023, 7:59 AM GMT+0

Almost half of Britons say they personally know someone in a same-sex marriage

On 16 July 2013, the House of Commons voted to make same-sex marriage legal in the UK, with the legislation receiving Royal Assent the next day.

Ten years on, new YouGov research shows 78% of Britons say they support same-sex marriage – the highest level we have recorded to date.

To mark the anniversary, we’ve looked through our archive to chart growing public support for same-sex marriage over the last decade.

Back in February 2011, our first poll asking people their view on same sex marriage found that only 42% supported it. A further 28% of Britons say that though they supported same-sex civil partnerships, they opposed same sex marriage, while 21% opposed any form of same-sex union.

Over the next twelve months, this story remained about the same. Then in December 2012, following the government’s announcement that it would introduce same-sex marriage legislation within the Parliamentary session, our question changed to ask about supporting or opposing the law to allow same sex couples to marry. Our poll that month found 57% backed changing the law to allow same-sex marriage, with 36% opposed – these figures were effectively unchanged in subsequent polling into 2014.

A further poll in 2017 found support for same-sex marriage had risen to 66%, and opposition had fallen to 23%. Two years later, when YouGov’s tracker series was launched in August 2019, support was higher still, at 71%.

Since that point, support has remained around the three-quarter mark, while around one in six Britons have remained opposed.

Support for same-sex marriage in Britain is high across generations

Support for same-sex marriage is roughly the same as the national rate among Britons under the age of 65 (79-83%). Older Britons are somewhat less likely to support, although even among the over-65s as many as 62% back the law, more than twice the number who are opposed (29%).

This is a significant change since our earlier polls – in our September 2011 survey only 27% of those over 60 supported same-sex marriage on the three-way question, and just 39% did so when we changed to the two-way question in late 2012.

It wasn’t until our 2019 polling that we started seeing a majority of over-65s in support of same-sex marriage (56% in August of that year).

Belief that same-sex relationships are equally valid has grown, although Britons are no more likely to think ours is a tolerant country towards gay and lesbian people

We also took the opportunity to re-ask a couple of questions on attitudes to gay and lesbian people and same sex relationships from March 2012.

Back then, 62% of Britons said that “same-sex relationships are just as valid as heterosexual relationships”, while 27% disagreed. Today, 75% say both kinds of relationships are equally valid, while only 15% disagree.

The Britain of 2012 was convinced that the UK was a generally tolerant country towards gay and lesbian people, with 78% saying so (although only 16% thought the country was ‘very tolerant’). Fast forward to 2023 and those figures are essentially unchanged: 77% of Britons see the nation as tolerant to gay and lesbian people, including 17% who think it is very much so.

Among gay and lesbian Britons themselves, a similar number overall consider Britain to be tolerant towards gay and lesbian people (79%), however they are notably less likely to describe it as “very tolerant” (8%). One in five (19%) describe the country as very or fairly intolerant.

Almost half of Britons say they know someone in a same-sex marriage

Ten years after the Commons vote to legalise same-sex marriage, there has been widespread enough uptake that almost half of Britons say they personally know someone in a same-sex marriage (47%). This number is somewhat lower amongst 18-24 year olds (27%) although this is likely due to fewer people in their social groups having married yet – young Britons are just as likely as the wider public to personally know someone who is gay, lesbian or bisexual (87% and 84%, respectively).

Among LGB+ Britons, 64% personally know someone in a same-sex marriage.

Photo: Getty