Poll: 49 Percent of Tennesseans Support Gay Marriage or Civil Unions

A new poll shows progress on gay rights in Tennessee, the Tennessean reports:

TennesseeA poll conducted this month for Vanderbilt University found that 49 percent of Tennesseans support gay marriage or civil unions while 46 percent are opposed to both, suggesting the state is now evenly divided on whether to extend legal recognition to same-sex couples.

Meanwhile, 62 percent of Tennesseans say health insurance and other employee benefits should be extended to the domestic partners or spouses of gays and lesbians. Thirty-one percent oppose the idea.

Views have changed significantly in seven years:

The poll results suggest a marked shift in Tennesseans’ views since 2006, when 81 percent of voters approved an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage between one man and one woman as “the only legally recognized marital contract” in the state.

That amendment remains a substantial hurdle to proponents of same-sex marriage in Tennessee, casting doubt on any legislation that attempts to extend the benefits of marriage to gays and lesbians in the state.

Its repeal also appears unlikely in the near future.