The total number of same-sex married couples has increased since its legalization in the United States, from 392,314 in 2015 to 711,129 in 2022.
- 58.8% of couples in U.S. same-sex households are married, and about 41.2% are unmarried partners
- 53.4% of people in same-sex married couples in the U.S. are female, and 46.6% are male
- California has the highest total number of same-sex households, and North Dakota has the lowest
- Whereas, the percent of same-sex households that are married couples is highest in North Dakota and lowest in Kansas
- Globally, 34 countries in the world have legalized same-sex marriage as of 2023
Same-sex marriage, also known as gay marriage or marriage equality, is the legal recognition of the union of two people of the same sex or gender. It is a controversial and divisive issue that has sparked debates, protests, lawsuits, and legislation in many countries around the world. Supporters of same-sex marriage argue that it is a fundamental human right and a matter of equality and dignity for LGBTQ+ people. Opponents of same-sex marriage contend that it violates the natural order, religious teachings, and traditional values of marriage and family.
Same-sex Marriage Statistics in the United States
Timeline of Legislation Passing of Same-sex Marriage
- The first attempt to legalize same-sex marriage in the United States was made in 1970, when Richard John Baker and James Michael McConnell applied for a marriage license in Minnesota. Their application was denied, and their case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which dismissed it for lack of a substantial federal question.
- In 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman for federal purposes, and allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.
- In 2003, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage by a court ruling. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that banning same-sex marriage violated the state constitution.
- In 2004, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered city officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, sparking a wave of similar actions by local officials in other states. The California Supreme Court later invalidated these marriages but also struck down a state law banning same-sex marriage in 2008.
- In 2008, California voters approved Proposition 8, a ballot measure that amended the state constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman, effectively overturning the court ruling. The measure was challenged in federal court, and eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
- In 2009, Iowa became the first state in the Midwest to legalize same-sex marriage by a court ruling. The Iowa Supreme Court unanimously held that denying marriage rights to same-sex couples violated the state constitution.
- In 2010, Washington, D.C. became the first jurisdiction in the United States to legalize same-sex marriage by legislative action. The D.C. Council passed a bill allowing same-sex couples to marry, which was signed by Mayor Adrian Fenty.
- In 2012, Maine, Maryland and Washington became the first states to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote. Voters in these states approved ballot measures to allow same-sex couples to marry.
- In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two landmark rulings on same-sex marriage. In United States v. Windsor, the court struck down Section 3 of DOMA, which denied federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, the court dismissed an appeal by proponents of Proposition 8, effectively restoring same-sex marriage in California.
- In 2014, a wave of federal court rulings overturned bans on same-sex marriage in several states, including Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Indiana and Wisconsin. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review these cases, allowing the lower court rulings to stand.
- In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its historic decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. The court ruled that state bans on same-sex marriage violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
- In 2022, Congress passed the Respect for Marriage Act, which repealed DOMA and provided federal recognition of same-sex marriages regardless of where they were performed. The bill also protected religious entities from being forced to recognize or participate in same-sex marriages.
Same-sex Marriage Statistics
- In the US, same-sex marriage became legal nationwide on June 26, 2015, when the Supreme Court announced its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. This decision recognized same-sex unions as legal marriages and granted them the rights and protections of married heterosexual couples. Before that, same-sex marriage was legal in some states, starting with Massachusetts in 2004.
- Since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015, the number of married same-sex households has increased significantly. The number of married same-sex households has increased by almost 70%, rising to 568,110 couples in 2019. The most recent estimate is about 700,000 plus married same-sex couples in the U.S. as of 2021.
- The number of same-sex couple households in the U.S. exceeded 1 million in 2021. In the same year, 58.8% of couples in the nation’s 1,209,462 same-sex households were married and about 41.2% were unmarried partners.
Same-sex Marriage Statistics Based on Age
- The median age of same-sex married partners was 48 years, compared to 46 years for opposite-sex married partners. The median age of same-sex unmarried partners was 40 years, compared to 37 years for opposite-sex unmarried partners
Same-sex Marriage Statistics Based on Gender
- Among both married and unmarried same-sex couples, there were more female than male couple households.
- Nationally, 53.4% of people in same-sex married couples were female and 46.6% were male.
- Among people in same-sex unmarried couples in the United States, 52.1% were female and 47.9% were male.
Same-sex Marriage Statistics Among Racial Groups
- As of 2022, 31.6% of couples in a same-sex marriage in the U.S. were interracial
- Among same-sex married couples in 2019, 77.8% were white alone (non-Hispanic), 7.2% were black or African American alone (non-Hispanic), 3.8% were Asian alone (non-Hispanic), and 10.7% were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
- Among same-sex unmarried partners in 2019, 72.4% were white alone (non-Hispanic), 11.9% were black or African American alone (non-Hispanic), 2.8% were Asian alone (non-Hispanic), and 12.3% were Hispanic or Latino of any race
- Whereas in 2021 the racial distribution of the householder of couples in same-sex marriages was as follows: White alone 70.6%, Black or African American alone 7.6%, American Indian or Alaska Native alone 0.9%, Asian alone 4.1%, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander alone 0.2%, Some other race alone 4.1%, Two or more races 12.5%.
- Similarly, the racial distribution of the householder of same-sex unmarried partners in 2021 was White alone 68.5%, Black or African American alone 10.4%, American Indian or Alaska Native alone 1.3%, Asian alone 2.9%, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander alone 0.2%, Some other race alone 5.4%, Two or more races 10.4.
Same-sex Marriage Statistics Across States
- The ten states with the highest number of same-sex households are California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Ohio, Washington and Massachusetts.
- Some of the states with the lowest number of same-sex households are Nebraska, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Idaho, Vermont, Wyoming, Montana, Alaska, South Dakota, and North Dakota
- The states with the highest percentage of same-sex households that are married households include North Dakota, Delaware, Vermont, South Dakota, New Jersey, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Utah.
- Whereas Arkansas, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Georgia, Hawaii, Missouri, Montana, Wyoming, West Virginia, and Kansas are among the ten states with the lowest percentage of same-sex households that are married households.
- Below is a table showing the total number of same-sex households across states in the U. S. in 2021 and the percentage of same-sex households that are married households
|State||Total Number of Same-sex Households||Percent of Same-sex Households that are Married|
|District of Columbia||8,069||57.6|
Same-sex Marriage Statistics Globally
- Globally, the history of same-sex marriage is complex and varied. Some scholars have argued that same-sex unions were recognized by the Roman Catholic Church in medieval Europe, although others have disputed this claim.
- A growing number of countries are legalizing same-sex marriage amid a steady advance in rights for LGBTQ+ people. More than two dozen countries have marriage equality, and more than half of these are in Western Europe. Cuba and Slovenia were the latest to legalize same-sex marriage, both in 2022. However, opposition remains strong in many countries and the expansion of LGBTQ+ rights around the globe has been uneven.
- According to recent data, there are 34 countries in the world that have legalized same-sex marriage as of 2023. The latest country to do so was Slovenia in 2023, while the second to last was Chile in 2022. Most of these countries are located in Western Europe. In Africa, same-sex marriage is legal only in South Africa, whereas in Oceania, only in Australia and New Zealand.
- 23 countries out of the 34 have legalized same-sex marriage nationally through legislation. Among these, Australia, Ireland and Switzerland legalized same-sex marriage through legislation only after nationwide votes.
- 10 countries have legalized same-sex marriage nationally through court decisions — Austria, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Slovenia (followed by national legislation), South Africa, Taiwan and the United States of America.
- 2 countries, South Africa and Taiwan, enacted legislation legalizing same-sex marriage after courts mandated them to do so.
- The following table shows the list of countries that have legalized same-sex marriage and the year they did so.
|United Kingdom (excluding Northern Ireland)||2014|
|United States of America||2015|
International Institutions & Marriage Equality
- The Inter-American Court of Human Rights is an independent judicial institution of the Organization of American States. In 2018, it issued an advisory opinion to Costa Rica that signatories of the American Convention on Human Rights are obliged to make same-sex marriage legal. The Court’s guidance applies to 20 signatory countries and has proven a powerful tool in advocating for marriage equality in these countries.
- The European Court of Justice (ECJ) serves as a high court in the European Union. In 2018, the ECJ determined that all EU countries were required to recognize the same-sex marriages of EU and non-EU citizens for purposes of immigration, regardless of whether same-sex marriage is legal in those countries. In recognition of this decision, the Supreme Administrative Court of Bulgaria affirmed in 2019 that the country would recognize such same-sex marriages for the purposes of immigration.
- The Council on Foreign Relations is a U.S.-based think tank that provides analysis and policy recommendations on global issues, including human rights. It has published reports and articles on the status and challenges of marriage equality around the world.
- Stonewall is a UK-based charity that campaigns for LGBTQ+ equality and empowerment. It works with local partners in over 80 countries to share best practices, provide training and resources, and advocate for legal and social change.