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Couple recognition, state by state, mid-2011 update

Timothy Kincaid

June 29th, 2011

The first half of this year has seen some victories and some defeats; and even some which are hard to categorize. But, there certainly has been change.

The status of the various recognition mechanisms is as follows (2011 additions are in italics):

on the same terms as heterosexual marriage – 11.5% of US Population:

New Hampshire
District of Columbia
New York

Civil Unions
– all rights except the name – 8.2% of US Population:

New Jersey
Rhode Island

Domestic Partnerships with nearly all the rights except the name – 16.3% of US Population


Limited recognition of same-sex couples – 5.8% of US Population

Colorado – Reciprocal Benefits
Wisconsin – Domestic Partnerships
Maine – Domestic Partnerships
Maryland – Domestic Partnerships

In addition, the state of Maryland (and perhaps New Mexico) will give full recognition to same-sex marriages conducted where legal.

So about 41.8% of all US residents live in a state in which some measure of recognition is given to same sex-couples. In addition, another 7.3% of the population lives in one of the dozens of cities which offer some form of recognition and protection for same-sex couples.



June 29th, 2011 | LINK

California is mislabelled…..although it really should be its own color. I find the 18,000 “limbo” marriages fascinating. I wish I could find more info on how they’re treated and such.

June 29th, 2011 | LINK

I don’t normally comment on BTB, but I’m not sure I agree with categorizing RI as “all rights except the name” when the RI law reads like the civil union is completely ignorable by any person or institution who feels like ignoring it.

you can already – anywhere in the nation not mentioned up there – find someone who will declare you married and then proceed to have that declaration ignored by any person who doesn’t consider such a declaration valid. the RI law doesn’t really change that aspect of the situation at all.

June 30th, 2011 | LINK

The California marriages are not in limbo at all. We’re married and treated the same under California law, and anywhere else that recognizes our marriages as any other married couple. “Limbo” doesn’t describe the currently married SS couples as it does those in California who want to get married, but are not allowed to.

Patrick Garies
June 30th, 2011 | LINK

“Limbo” makes sense in the sense that you’re “confined” to that one marriage. Leave it via divorce or the death of your partner and suddenly your marital rights are gone as far as any new partner goes.

As for the map, Washington, DC and the Coquille Indian Reservation are missing. Coloring all of Canada green might put things in better perspective too.

June 30th, 2011 | LINK

The US is like a slow, ambling dinosaur on this issue.

June 30th, 2011 | LINK

I am really confused by your list. It is my understanding that domestic partnerships in CA, WA, OR, and NV are every bit as comprehensive as “civil unions” in the other states. In fact, Washington’s Referendum 71 was regularly referred to as “marriage in all but name”. What rights are available in a DE or HI civil union that are not available in a CA or WA domestic partnership?

On the comments above about CA: the 18,000 couples are fully married and will remain so until death or divorce do they part. The real significance of this is that the “definition of marriage” has been changed in California for the past 3 years. It doesn’t matter if there are 18,000 married gay couples, 1,800, or 18. The definition is still altered. Yet oddly enough, neither NOM nor the Prop 8 proponents are tracking societal breakdown in the state, nor are they taking any steps to do a clean-up proposition to dissolve the 18,000 gay marriages.

June 30th, 2011 | LINK

“Marriage on the same terms as heterosexual marriage” is not even close to a true statement.

June 30th, 2011 | LINK

Is there any stats on how many of the 18,000 are still intact? I remember reading some people saying they’d divorce if Prop 8 was upheld, as they didn’t want to be in that situation.

Also, what is the deal with the law they passed about marriages in other states/countries from before Prop 8?

Timothy Kincaid
June 30th, 2011 | LINK


Sorry… that “nearly” should have been in both or neither.

I’m using “all the rights” although I know someone will quibble and point out some minor distinction. And the truth is that minor distinctions can occur even when the intent is exact duplication. It is part of the nature of “separate but equal” that equality is elusive.

Timothy (TRiG)
June 30th, 2011 | LINK

Well, the intended effect of DOMA is that full marriage equality is unattainable anywhere in the USA. Arguably, the UK’s civil unions are better than the marriages in those US states which allow them.

Does California recognise same-sex marriages performed elsewhere?


Timothy Kincaid
June 30th, 2011 | LINK


Well, no, it’s not “any person or institution who feels like ignoring it.” The only folks who can ignore civil unions are churches and church-run groups.

And just how often do you need recognition from churches and church-run groups? Hospitals can’t ignore it if they accept Medicare.

June 30th, 2011 | LINK

@Tim Kincaid:

No problem! Glad I could help clear that up.


CA recognizes gay marriages from other states, but only such marriages entered into prior to November 4, 2008. After that date, no SSMs are recognized, regardless of where the SSMs were entered into.

I am sure that CA keeps annual divorce statistics like every other state, and I would strongly suspect that they break out the same-sex divorces. However, while I have seen statistics on gay divorce in the Netherlands, Vermont, and Canada, I have not seen anything on CA. A study or report may be out there, but I haven’t seen it.

June 30th, 2011 | LINK

Here’s a better map I made, with states scaled by population at the 2000 census (base map from University of Michigan’s Mark Newman).

I had not noticed until now, but New Mexico is now officially the only state in the union to never pass anything one way or another on this issue — congratulations! (now pass a civil union law, please).

June 30th, 2011 | LINK

Also I must point out that even if all 50 states were to allow Same Sex Marriage “on the same terms as heterosexual marriage” unless it is recognized on a federal level (ie no more DOMA) those rights will never be the same, especially important ones like immigration.

As Tim pointed out, “separate but equal” never is equal.

I would also really like to see a “prediction” of this map in 5, 10, and 20 years.

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