By Adelle M. Banks
Religion News Service
(RNS) Nearly two-thirds of Americans say gay or lesbian relations between consenting adults should be legal, the highest percentage ever recorded by Gallup.
Researchers found that 64 percent of American adults supported legal gay relations, which Gallup has included in surveys since 1977.
In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court's Lawrence v. Texas decision struck down state anti-sodomy laws that had been used to criminalize homosexual activity.
Despite the high rate of support for gay relations, Americans are less likely -- 56 percent -- to consider them "morally acceptable," even as that figure is the highest measured since Gallup first asked that question in 2001.
Americans who believe same-sex orientation is inherent are much more likely to think legal gay relations are morally acceptable, with 81 percent approval, compared to just 33 percent who believe a person's sexual orientation is due to environmental factors.
The same poll, taken May 5-8, found that a majority of Americans (53 percent) supported gay marriage for the first time since Gallup started tracking the issue in 1996.
Catholics are more likely than Protestants to support legal same-sex marriage, and it is also favored more by those who attend church less frequently and people who are unmarried.
The findings, based on telephone interviews of 1,018 adults, have a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.