A new poll has found that a majority of New Jerseyans favor civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, but they remain divided--mostly by age--on whether same-sex marriage should be legalized. The Star-Ledger/Eagleton-Rutgers Poll, released Monday, found that 52% of respondents support civil unions, while 40% are opposed, and that about 60% said same-sex couples should be entitled to health insurance and Social Security benefits through their partners. Meanwhile, 50% said same-sex marriage should not be legalized, while 43% approved, and 53% said the state should recognize a same-sex
marriage if it were performed in another state and the couple moved to New Jersey. "When it comes to the legal status of homosexual partnerships, New Jerseyans tend to be more progressive than the nation as a whole, particularly with regard to the idea of civil unions," said Patrick Murray, the poll's associate director.
Opinions on these issues were very much age-related. Younger adults were the strongest supporters of same-sex marriage and benefits, while the majority of respondents over age 50 favored neither. For example, 64% of respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 said same-sex marriage should be legalized, but only 27% of those 50 or older agreed. However, 40% said they would support civil unions.
New Jersey has become a key state in the debate over same-sex marriage. In June a national gay rights group filed a lawsuit in state superior court on behalf of seven same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses, and a civil union bill pending in the legislature would extend benefits to gay, lesbian, and unmarried heterosexual couples. The Star-Ledger/Eagleton-Rutgers poll surveyed 802 adult New Jersey residents September 2-8. It has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.