A new poll shows New Yorkers evenly divided on whether gay marriage should be legal.

The Marist poll found New Yorkers split right down the middle with 50 percent of respondents in favor of the institution. Another 25 percent back civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, and 25 percent say there should be no legal recognition. A larger majority of respondents (53%) said they believe marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

The new poll belies a poll released last month by the Siena Research Institute at the Siena College in Loudonville, New York, which found 58 percent of respondents in favor of legalizing marriage between two members of the same sex and 36% opposed.

The nation's most vociferous opponent of gay marriage, the Washington-based National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which has pledged $1.5 million to defeat its legalization in New York, immediately lauded the poll.

“More good news: A new Marist poll released yesterday shows the majority of New Yorkers oppose gay marriage, 53% to 46%; and it is New Yorkers of color who are leading the way, since 63% of them oppose gay marriage,” the group said at its blog. “Plus, the poll shows 76% of New York Republicans think marriage should be only between one man and one woman.”

Gay rights group Equality Matters called NOM's posting “shameless” for misrepresenting the poll's findings and playing the race card.

“It's a favorite tactic of theirs – depict supporters of marriage equality as 'white urban liberals' and then accuse them of trying to force their radical agenda on minority groups,” the group said at its blog.

“When it comes to restricting the rights of gay and lesbian Americans, no strategy is too sleazy for NOM.”