Percentage of American Couples Protected

Timothy Kincaid

April 7th, 2009

This has been a good week for Americans who value equality and social stability. More gay couples have been incorporated into the fabric of society and endowed with both the blessings and the expectations of their neighbors.

Here is how same-sex couples fare (after the relevant commencement dates of Iowa, Vermont, and D.C.):

  • 4.5% of Americans live in a state that recognizes marriages (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, and Vermont)
  • 16.6% of Americans live in a state that offers all of the benefits and obligations of marriage by a different name (California, New Jersey, Oregon, and New Hampshire)
  • 5.1% 4.9% of Americans live in a state (or District) that offers recognition to same-sex couples, but not with all of the same benefits and obligations as marriage (Hawaii, Maine, Washington, District of Columbia, and Maryland)
  • 7.4% 7.6% of Americans live in a state (or District) that either recognizes out-of-state legal marriages or in which that status has not been fully determined (Rhode Island, New York, and New Mexico, and the District of Columbia)
  • 66.4% of Americans live in a state that does not recognize their relationship at all


The above breakout has been amended to show that Washington D.C. does currently recognize Domestic Partnerships and offer limited benefits.


April 7th, 2009

If I understand the language correctly, DC voted to recognize SSMs performed in other states as marriages. So even though same-sex couples can’t yet get married in DC and have to settle for domestic partnerships, if they get married in another state, DC regards them as married.

Timothy Kincaid

April 7th, 2009


Yes, that is correct. Also, they do offer domestic partnership benefits of their own so you don’t have to go to another state to get some recognition and coverage.


April 7th, 2009


That, I imagine, complicates the breakout. *g*


April 7th, 2009

I know this is off topic but i would be interested to know the % of gays in DC that are affected by HIV and AIDS, actually, a breakdown of the percentages like shown in this post would be a better approach. I hear around 3% of the population in DC are now affected by this.

Wow.. 66%… LONG way to go. ANd i imagine most of them have statues or resolutions to bar gays from other areas. Like adoption, jobs, housing…etc.


April 7th, 2009

Would it more accurate to say “16.6% of Americans live in a state that offers all of the state-based benefits and obligations of marriage by a different name”?

Because, of course, 100% of Americans DO NOT live anywhere that offers equal benefits and obligations to marriage to gay couples, by that or any other name.

There is that Federal issue…


April 8th, 2009

I hate to be pedantic (OK, I don’t really hate it), but Domestic Partnerships in California are not entirely equal to opposite-sex marriage. The differences are few and are irrelevant for almost all couples, but there are differences.

It really wouldn’t be that hard to stick an “almost” in front of “all”, would it?

Timothy Kincaid

April 8th, 2009


There’s nothing wrong with insisting on accuracy… providing that you are correct.

It has been my understanding that over the past few years the CA legislature and governor have been tweaking the law to track down any final previously unidentified differences and resolving them.

I believe that they are currently unaware of any rights, benefits, obligations, or priveleges that are present in marriage that are not present in Domestic Partnerships. (There are some difference in requirements to enter a DP)

You, however, may know better. So please kindly provide a list and I’ll forward it to Sacramento.


April 8th, 2009

Washington State is I think… one vote away from moving from category three above up to category two, with SB 5688 amending the existing DP law to theoretically equal treatment across all state law. The governor is expected to sign the bill once it passes the House after second reading.

You can follow status on that here:

Jason Marsden

April 8th, 2009

With our tiny population, it doesn’t affect the statistics at all, but you may not be aware that Wyoming is still among the states where out-of-jurisdiction marriages not legal by Wyoming law but legal where issued, are still legal here. You left us off the list. Check out Google on the 2007 statutory, and 2009 constitutional, bans that both failed in the Legislature. It was amazing, and the audio of the extremely moving floor debate is archived online at The debate starts at 1:41:50 and ends at 2:45:34.

Timothy Kincaid

April 8th, 2009


There seems to be a bit of ambiguity but the Wikipedia article does not leave one with the impression that out of state marriages are or may be recognized. Nor does the Marriage Watch site.

Do you have a source I can link to which will clarify that Wyoming does (or may) recognize out of state marriages?

Jason Marsden

April 8th, 2009

For starters take a look at a key portion of Title 20 of Wyoming State Statute (the Domestic Relations title):

§ 20-1-111. Foreign marriages.

All marriage contracts which are valid by the laws of the country in which contracted are valid in this state.

(C.L. 1876, ch. 81, § 17; R.S. 1887, § 1557; R.S. 1899, § 2971; C.S. 1910, § 3907; C.S. 1920, § 4971; R.S. 1931, § 68-117; C.S. 1945, § 50-118; W.S. 1957, § 20-21; Laws 1977, ch. 152, § 1; Rev. W.S. 1957, § 20-1-111.)

—As a note, “country” by separate Wyoming case law under this Title is considered to include “state” within the U.S. as well as countries such as Canada etc., where of course same-sex marriages have been issued to Wyoming couples (I know one couple personally who have done so, and another via Casper-Star Tribune story, which I won’t link to for sake of their privacy).

Secondly I would point you to this separate Casper Star-Tribune article, and specifically the third paragraph, which represents the general consensus about the meaning of the above statute:

“Wyoming law already stipulates that only marriages between a man and woman are valid, but the law also requires the state to recognize valid unions performed in other states.”

Hope that is along the lines of what you were looking for. And many thanks for your interest, Timothy. We are a bit overlooked here by blogs and media, I daresay, because we are so small and have such a small media presence.

Jason L.

April 9th, 2009


A far greater inaccuracy than the ones discussed here is the one grantdale brought up. The way your post reads now, it leaves the impression that same-sex couples in the SSM states plus CA, OR, NJ, and NH have the same rights as opposite-sex couples, which is false. People ask me (here in MA) whether I intend to marry my (German) partner of five years, and I have to explain that our marrying would jeopardize his student visa, as it would indicate a desire on his part to immigrate to the U.S. permanently. U.S. citizens can sponsor their spouses for permanent immigration, but only if the federal gov’t recognizes them as a spouse. With the federal DOMA, it is not possible for any state to recognize a same-sex union such that the spouses have the same rights as opposite-sex couples.

Timothy Kincaid

April 9th, 2009


It is not out of population size or status that I missed Wyoming. I’d simply never heard this before.

Do you know if your friends (or any other same-sex married couple) have attempted to get any form of state recognition (perhaps jointly filing taxes) of their marriage? What was the response?

And has any legal opinion been given about whether the language of the law (“Marriage is a civil contract between a male and a female person…”) specifically excludes foreign same-sex marriages (“marriage contracts which are valid by the laws of the country in which contracted”)?

In other words, has the argument “It’s not a valid foreign marriage because it isn’t a marriage at all as defined by this state” been addressed?

Perhaps we should consider adding Wyoming to the “not fully determined” category.

Timothy Kincaid

April 9th, 2009

grantdale and Jason L

My wording is “…live in a state that offers…”

States do not offer federal rights, priveleges, benefits, obligations, or protections. The states listed do, however, offer the same state-level rights to covenanted same-sex couples as they do to heterosexual married couples.


April 9th, 2009

No state offers all the benefits of marriage by another name. Separate not being equal, if it’s not called marriage, it doesn’t offer all the benefits — as that New Jersey civil unions commission study found last year.

Jason Marsden

April 9th, 2009

Hi Timothy,
I don’t know of any case law yet in Wyoming; the lesbian couple in Gillette, whose CS-T story appears to have dropped off the Web entirely, were trying to navigate the spousal benefits system with a private company some years back after being wed in Canada, but I don’t recall it ever getting to court. And Wyoming has no income tax so there’s no joint-filing issues possible under state law. It’s still ripe to be ruled on but legislators who oppose gay marriage clearly feel that the “foreign marriages” statute potentially stands alone. So it probably is somewhere on the continuum from “undetermined” to “out-of-state-only recognized.”

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