A new report from the Public Religion Research Institute suggests a majority of Catholics are supportive of gay and lesbian rights.
The report, which was released today, found that 43 percent of Catholics favored allowing gay and lesbian people to marry; 31 percent favored allowing them to form civil unions. 22 percent said there should be no legal recognition of a gay relationship.
Here are a few more findings from the report:
-- Only 39 percent of Catholics give their church top marks for its treatment of the issue of homosexuality.
-- 56 percent of Catholics believe that homosexual sex is not a sin.
-- When marriage is defined as a civil marriage "like you get at city hall," 71 percent of Catholics support it.
In a conference call announcing the new research, Dr. Michelle Dillon, professor of sociology and chair of the Sociology Department at the University of New Hampshire, said the report shows the changing and more accepting atmosphere building around gay marriage in the country. It also, she said, highlights the division between American Catholics and the Vatican.
"Most American Catholics believe that one can be a good Catholic and disagree with the Vatican and the bishops on issues of personal conscience," said Dillon. "Gay-marriage has clearly become another issue, along with artificial contraception and divorce and remarriage, which Catholics believe is not core to what it means to be Catholic."
Last week, we reported on an ABC/Washington Post poll that found 53 percent of Americans think gay marriage should be legal.