Thirty-Five Percent of Americans Live in States With Some Same-Sex Relationship Protections

Timothy Kincaid

June 3rd, 2009

  • Six states (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire) now recognize marriage equality. Although actual marriages do not yet take place in a few (due to effective dates), sixteen million Americans live in states that value their same-sex couples as equal citizens. This is 5.3% of the US population.
  • Five states (California, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Nevada) provide relationship recognition that includes all or nearly all of the rights and responsibilities of marriage through Domestic Partnerships or Civil Unions. Fifty eight million people live in those states. This is 19.2% of the US population.
  • New York and the District of Columbia both recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere with the full support of the local administration. To some less-certain extent Rhode Island does the same. Twenty one million Americans live in states that may recognize and honor the protections and obligations of marriage. This is 7.0% of the US population.
  • Three states (Hawaii, Maryland, and Colorado) offer a list of limited rights though either Domestic Partnerships or Reciprocality agreements. Twelve million people live in those states. This is 3.9%of the US population.

In total 35.4% of Americans live in an area in which to some extent their gay couples have the respect and protection of their community.


June 3rd, 2009

thanks for laying out the numbers. the map is updating so quickly its hard to keep track.


June 3rd, 2009

indeed, thanks for updating, although I must admit I’m not sure that Maryland’s DP law should really count (it sort of provides rights, but it’s not actually a status registered with the state — which is really bizarre and non-robust, and is equivalent to something that NY, for example, already has).

I don’t know if you noticed during all of the news coverage — everyone kept saying that Nevada was the 17th state to recognize relationships. did you ever see backup for this? (I didn’t, and I was wondering if they included states that also gave DP benefits to state employees — except that list is actually much larger, including, e.g., Alaska, Montana …)


June 4th, 2009

I saw that too, re: 17th state, and didn’t understand what kind of count they were using either.


June 4th, 2009

Nice dose of perspective. I always love maps and visual aids, too. :-) Thank you!


June 4th, 2009

Can someone tell me why Delaware has absolutely no protections for the LGBT community whatsoever (outside of state government protections for gay & lesbian employees’ partners)? I thought Delaware was a liberal state.

Timothy Kincaid

June 4th, 2009

I don’t know why they would say 17th. By my count, Nevada is state number 14 (counting DC) to offer recognition.


June 4th, 2009

Timothy: maybe I’m missing some reasoning, but where’s Massachusetts on your top list? Also, New York at least should count in that it recognizes out of state marriages. Rhode Island, I don’t think they recognize anything…so my personal count is 16.

Timothy Kincaid

June 4th, 2009


Good catch. The list of states that recognize relationships – whether by legislation or by court order – at date of first recognition would be:

1. District of Columbia 1992 – council (blocked by Congress until 2002)
2. Hawaii 1993 – court
3. California 1999 – legislature
4. Vermont 1999 – court
5. Massachusetts 2003 – court
6. New Jersey 2004 – legislature
7. Maine 2004 – legislature
8. Connecticut 2005 – legislature
9. New Hampshire 2007 – legislature
10. Washington 2007 – legislature
11. Oregon 2007 – legislature
12. New York 2008 – executive order
13. Maryland 2008 – legislature
14. Iowa 2009 – court
15. Colorado 2009 – legislature
16. Nevada 2009 – legislature

Perhaps they are counting Rhode Island. But I am unaware of the state actually ever having any instances in which out-of-state marriages were fully recognized. I’m inclined at present to view RI as perhaps theoretically recognizing out of state marriages.

We’ve come a long way since 1984 when the Berkeley School Board first adopted Domestic Partnerships.

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