Support for same-sex marriage increases as momentum grows in states

(CNN) -- As a string of federal judges across the country have struck down several state bans on same-sex marriage, over half of Americans support the move to allow same-sex couples to legally wed.

A Gallup survey released Wednesday showed 55% of respondents approve of laws granting same-sex couples equal rights to traditional marriages. That's an all-time high in a Gallup survey since it started asking about the issue in 1996, when only 27% surveyed said same-sex marriages should be valid.

An ABC News/Washington Post survey conducted two months ago indicated an even higher percentage of support. In that survey, nearly six in ten respondents said gay or lesbian couples should be able to legally wed.

Both national polls were conducted after federal judges struck down a series of state bans on same-sex marriage and prohibitions on recognizing such unions performed in other states.

On Tuesday, a federal judge in Pennsylvania struck down its ban on same-sex marriage, following closely behind a decision in Oregon to do the same on Monday. Including those two states, same-sex marriage is allowed in 19 states as well as the District of Columbia. That's a significant jump from about a decade ago when same-sex marriages were prohibited unanimously across the country.

The latest rulings mark yet another win for marriage equality advocates in their near-unbroken string of state and federal court victories nationwide in the past year.

Paving the way for the recent rulings was a U.S. Supreme Court decision last summer. In a split 5-4 decision, the high court ruled as unconstitutional a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act, which withheld recognition of, and benefits from, same-sex couples married in states where such marriages are legal.

Activists maintaining that marriage remain between a man and a woman aren't giving up the fight. Many decisions in the states striking down the ban have been stayed, pending appeals -- meaning gay and lesbian couples can't marry in those states until an appeals court weighs in.

The Gallup survey was conducted from May 8-11 with 1,028 adults questioned by telephone. The poll's sampling error is plus or minus 5 percentage points.

CNN's Greg Botelho and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

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