Homosexual and lesbian activists have kicked off “Freedom to Marry Week,” hoping to use events planned across the nation to build support for legalizing same-sex marriage.

“Once again, as they have for the last six years, same sex couples and our non-gay allies will organize events to help our neighbors see the value of full equality under the law,” said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, in a statement.

“The gay and non-gay people taking part in Freedom to Marry events this week are asking fair-minded people to reject efforts to stampede them into supporting discrimination and instead talk about how the exclusion from marriage harms real families in our country.”

Public debate about homosexual marriage has heightened since last week’s advisory opinion by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that only full and equal marriage rights for homosexual couples will pass constitutional muster, rejecting a potential Vermont-style civil-union system.

The ruling paves the way for the nation’s first state-sanctioned homosexual weddings in mid-May.

This week’s event organizers have set aside Thursday as Freedom to Marry Day.

“The more people talk calmly to one another about what reasons there are for excluding committed couples from marriage because they are gay, the more Americans are coming to accept marriage equality,” Wolfson said. “As courts in Canada and Massachusetts have recently reminded us, there is no good reason to take a group of families, including parents with kids, and shove them outside the legal protection and security that come with civil marriage licenses.”

Organizers say events this week will include rallies, public forums and religious ceremonies.

Wolfson claims “Americans are coming to support marriage equality, because they know that there is enough marriage, and enough equality, to share.”

In a Zogby poll released last month, 52 percent of Massachusetts residents agreed only marriage between one man and one woman should be legal and binding in America. Forty-two percent disagreed.

Opposition to legal homosexual marriage is greater on a national basis. A poll released yesterday indicates 60 percent of Americans oppose same-sex matrimony, while just 31 percent approve.

Opponents of same-sex marriage have launched a drive to pass constitutional amendment in the U.S. that would preclude states from licensing homosexuals to marry.

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