Half of the registered voters in New Jersey believe that same-sex couples are entitled to the same rights as heterosexuals, but prefer not to call it marriage, according to a Newark Star-Ledger poll.

The poll follows a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling last month that same-sex couples are entitled to the same rights as heterosexual couples, but that state lawmakers should decide within six months whether those relationships could be called marriage.

“People in New Jersey are very supportive of equal rights, but the concept of marriage is more complicated,” said Mickey Blum, whose firm, Blum Weprin Associates, performed the telephone survey of 777 people for the newspaper, reports the Star-Ledger.

The poll, conducted November 1-2 2006, has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

Blum also said the number of people who said they were undecided about whether the state Legislature should grant gay couples the right to marry was 17 percent, which is unusually high.

“This is an issue people are struggling with,” she told the Star-Ledger. “They seem to be trying to decide what is reasonable or fair.”

A decision to legalise same-sex marriage would make New Jersey the second state in the US after Massachusetts to give such unions the same legal status as that of heterosexual couples.

According to Reuters, many lawmakers interviewed after the court decision said they do not expect the legislature to legalise same-sex marriage in New Jersey when the Assembly and Senate return from recess later this month

© 2006 GayWired.com; All Rights Reserved.