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Poll Shows Opinions Differ About Same-Sex Marriage, Civil Unions

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RALEIGH, N.C. — For most couples, a walk down the aisle requires a quick trip downtown to get a marriage license.

But it is not that easy for everyone. From Massachusetts to San Francisco, same-sex marriages are grabbing headlines and, in some cases, separating communities.

A marriage of two women is not recognized in North Carolina. So, Kathy Heggemeier and Elaine Hause, who have been together nearly half their lives, went to Canada to get married.

"It was the first time it was conceivable to go somewhere to make what we have legal," Hause said.

In a

new Elon University poll,

64 percent of the respondents said "I don't" when asked if they support same-sex marriages. But some of those same people still said the support civil unions.

When asked if they supported civil unions between gay couples, 44 percent said "yes," while 48 percent said "no."

Do you support legalizing gay marriages, legalizing civil unions for homosexual couples, both of those, neither of those, or a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as being only between a man and a woman? Gay Marriages Civil Unions Both Neither Constitutional Amendment

Cheri Patrick, who provides legal services to homosexual couples, said she was surprised by the support for civil unions.

"I think it's only because of the recent advances in gay marriage that people are beginning to say: 'We are OK with civil unions,'" Patrick said. "These same people three to four years ago would not be."

But the support drops when it comes to taking the next step -- gay marriages. In fact, many people favor a law prohibiting them.

When asked if they would support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriages, 57 percent of those polled by Elon said "yes." Local youth minister Andy Winn said he supports such a law.

"When two men or two women get married, or desire that, it is totally contrary to what marriage is designed for," Winn said.

When it comes to gay marriages and civil unions in North Carolina, state statute prohibits a marriage between two people of the same sex.

"Knowing that your fellow countrymen, many of them want to amend the Constitution to shut you out, it's terribly painful," Heggemeier said.

The state neither allows nor forbids civil unions. Civil unions are not mentioned at all in state statutes. So, if state legislators wanted to, they could pass legislation allowing civil unions.

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