NEW YORK — Nearly two-thirds of Americans expect the U.S. Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide when it rules on the issue within the next few weeks, according to a new poll.
Only 25 percent expect the high court to leave existing state bans on gay marriage intact, while 65 percent expect the bans to be overturned, according to the poll conducted by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute. Its nationwide survey of 1,009 adults was conducted from June 3 to June 7.
Mirroring the findings of several other recent national polls, the new survey found 55 percent of Americans in favor of allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, and 37 percent opposed.
Among those who oppose same-sex marriage, 72 percent say the decision about its legality should be made at the state level. Among those who favor same-sex marriage, 59 percent say the issue should be decided at the national level. At the moment, same-sex marriages are allowed in 36 states.
The survey found sharp divisions over same-sex marriage along religious lines. Majorities of religiously unaffiliated Americans (79 percent), white mainline Protestants (60 percent) and Catholics (58 percent) favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. But gay marriage was supported by only 29 percent of white evangelical Protestants and 35 percent of nonwhite Protestants.
The survey also asked about perceptions of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Three-quarters of Democrats, 61 percent of independents and 50 percent of Republicans said there is a lot of discrimination against transgender people.
Overall, 69 percent of Americans — including 65 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of white evangelical Protestants — said they favored laws that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations and housing.
And 60 percent of Americans opposed allowing small business owners to refuse service to gays and lesbians, even if it violates their religious beliefs. This opposition included 64 percent of Catholics, 63 percent of nonwhite Protestants and 59 percent of white mainline Protestants. Among white evangelical Protestants, 51 percent supported allowing small business owners to refuse service to gays and lesbians on religious grounds.
According to the survey, 65 percent of Americans report having a close friend or family member who is gay or lesbian. Only 11 percent reported having a close friend or family member who is transgender.
The survey consisted of telephone interviews — half conducted on cellphones — among a random sample of adults. The research institute said the margin of error for the survey was plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.