County Fair

State Victories Expand Number Of Americans Covered By Same-Sex Relationship Recognition

July 07, 2011 1:19 pm ET by Carlos Maza

After suffering a major setback in Maryland earlier this year, the LGBT community has scored a number of major victories on the road to full marriage equality in the U.S. Both Delaware and Rhode Island passed laws allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions that provide them with many of the same rights and benefits afforded to heterosexual married couples in the states. New York also became the sixth and largest state in the country to adopt marriage equality.

In light of these victories, it’s time to update our previous statistics about the number of Americans covered by same-sex relationship recognition laws. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Any Recognition: 42 percent of Americans live in states that provide some form of same-sex relationship recognition, including recognition of out-of-state unions. This number has remained relatively constant as New York and Rhode Island had previously offered domestic partnerships to gay and lesbian couples.
  • Full Rights: 38 percent of Americans live in states that provide gay and lesbian couples -- either through marriages, civil unions, or domestic partnerships -- the same (or close to the same) rights, privileges, and responsibilities provided to straight married couples. That number represents an 8-point increase from earlier this year, thanks largely to New York.
  • Marriage: 13 percent of Americans live in states that allow gay and lesbian couples to legally marry. New York’s decision to adopt marriage equality doubled the number of Americans living in places that allow for same-sex marriage.
  • Allow For Unions In-State: 41 percent of Americans live in states that offer gays and lesbians the opportunity -- either through marriages, civil unions, or domestic partnerships -- to commit to each other in state-recognized unions performed in their jurisdiction. This number hasn’t changed significantly, since both Rhode Island and New York previously offered gay and lesbian couples with some form of relationship recognition.

These statistics don’t reflect the number of people covered by city and county ordinances recognizing same-sex couples, which cover millions more Americans.

Unfortunately, couples living in states that have adopted marriage equality are still denied the more than 1,138 federal rights, benefits, and protections offered to heterosexual married couples because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

The number of same-sex couples covered by relationship recognition laws is likely to grow as states like Maine, California, and Maryland prepare to become the next battlegrounds in the fight for marriage equality. With a clear majority of Americans now in favor of allowing loving, committed gay and lesbian couples to have their relationships legally recognized, the march towards full marriage equality is only going to quicken its pace as times goes on.


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