Public support for same-sex marriage continues to rise and support for access to legal abortions has edged upwards after declining in 2009, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center.
The poll found that 45 percent of adults surveyed favored allowing gays and lesbians to legally marry, compared to only 42 percent last year. Forty-six percent of those surveyed were opposed to same-sex marriage, a decline of 19 percent since 1996.
The greatest support for same-sex marriage came from the Northeast, where 59 percent were in favor, followed by the West, where 56 percent were in favor. Support for same-sex marriage was below 50 percent in the Midwest and South.
Not surprisingly, Democrats were more likely than Republicans to support making same-sex marriages legal. Fifty-one percent of Independents said they were in favor, while only 23 percent of Republicans were.
The poll also found that a slim majority of Americans support legal abortion in all or most cases. Fifty-four percent of those surveyed said they supported access to legal abortions, compared with only 46 percent in 2009.
Evangelical Protestants were the religious group most opposed to legal abortion, with 64 percent of self-described evangelicals saying abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. In comparison, only 45 percent of Catholics said abortion should be illegal.
Despite the public support for legal abortions, the House Judiciary committee on Thursday approved a broad measure that limits access to abortion for women whose health may be harmed by carrying a pregnancy to term.
Last week, President Barack Obama decided that a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act, a Clinton-era law that restricts the benefits of marriage to a man and a woman only, was unconstitutional, and ordered the Department of Justice to stop defending it.
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) said the Republican-led House of Representatives would defend the controversial legislation if the Justice Department would not.