State of the Facts
In the last decade, the number of same-sex married households more than quadrupled. Same-sex couples were 1.2% of all households with married couples in 2021, according to the latest American Community Survey data. These numbers have continued to increase consistently over the past few decades.
The right to same-sex marriage is currently protected through the 2015 Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges. At the time of the Obergefell case, 28 states had constitutions banning same-sex marriage, and four states had laws banning the practice. If the case were overturned, the issue would return to state regulation.
Following the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision in June 2022, which overturned the constitutional right to an abortion, a bill was proposed in the House of Representatives to federally regulate the right to same-sex and interracial marriage. This bill, titled the Respect for Marriage Act, passed the Senate with revisions on November 29, 2022. The Respect for Marriage Act repeals the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage between one man and one woman. It also requires states and the federal government to respect gay marriages in the states where it is legal.
In the seven years since the Obergefell decision, same-sex marriages have become more common, but the changes have differed by state.
The number of same-sex marriages has steadily increased over time. In the years after Massachusetts became the first state to legally recognize same-sex marriage in 2004, gay marriage legalization efforts picked up in other states.
In 2011, there were around 168,000 married same-sex couples in the US. A decade later, there was around 711,000 married same-sex couples. Of these same-sex marriages, around 53% were between women, and 47% were between men.
Additionally, around half a million unmarried same-sex couples were living in households together in 2021.
However, same-sex couples still get married at lower rates than opposite-sex couples. Of all same-sex couples living together in 2021, around 59% were married. By comparison, 87% of opposite-sex couples living together were married.
Expanding beyond marriage, the total number of same-sex households from 2011 to 2021 nearly doubled. California, Texas, Florida, and New York accounted for 40% of the increase in same-sex households, which is relatively proportional to their role in overall population growth.
While more populated states drove raw increases in same-sex households, percentage increases in same-sex couples tell a different story. All the states with the greatest percentage increases in same-sex couples from 2011 to 2021 had legal restrictions on same-sex marriage before the Obergefell case.
South Carolina and Arkansas saw more than a 200% change, or a three-fold increase, in the number of same-sex couple households in this time period. Meanwhile, Massachusetts had one of the lowest increases in same-sex households at 60%.
Over one-third of married same-sex couples live in four states: California, Texas, Florida, and New York.
States in the Northeast and along the West coast tend to have higher proportions of same-sex marriages. Washington, DC has the highest proportion of same-sex marriages at 6% of all marriages. Of the 50 states, Delaware and Massachusetts have the highest proportion of married couple households identifying as same-sex.
Data isn’t available at the city level for same-sex marriages, but same-sex households overall tend to live in cities at higher rates. In 2019, same-sex coupled households were at least 2% of all coupled households in 10 metropolitan areas. The San Francisco Bay area had the highest percentage at 2.8%.
|Metropolitan statistical areas||Percent of coupled households that are same-sex|
|San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, Calif.||2.8%|
|Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, Texas||2.2%|
|Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, Fla.||2.2%|
No states have passed any legislation around same-sex marriage since the Dobbs decision. If the Supreme Court revisits Obergefell, it could make the legality of same-sex marriage an open question in states with laws on the books prohibiting the practice.
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