Massachusetts residents are evenly split over a proposed state constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage but allow civil unions for same-sex couples, according to a new poll released Tuesday by the University of Massachusetts.
The poll found that 47% of those asked backed the proposal, while 47% opposed it. The poll sample was made up of 463 state residents, 400 of whom are registered voters. The poll was taken March 30 through April 4, beginning the day after state lawmakers approved the amendment in a constitutional convention. It had a margin of error of plus or minus five percentage points.
Given specific choices, 40% of those surveyed would allow gay marriage, while 28% support a ban on gay marriage that also would provide for civil unions. The poll found that 17% oppose both legalizing gay marriage and authorizing same-sex civil unions. The poll did not ask respondents how they planned to vote on the amendment should it be placed on the ballot.
Under the state's constitutional amendment process, the compromise measure must be approved again--in exactly the same form--during the 2005-2006 legislative session before going to voters on the November 2006 ballot. The survey also found that 52% of those surveyed support Gov. Mitt Romney's effort to ask the state supreme judicial court, the state's highest court, for a stay of its November ruling legalizing gay marriage. Unless the ruling is stayed, marriage for same-sex couples will be legal in the Bay State starting May 17--more than two years before voters would have a chance to vote on an amendment banning it.