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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 26 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 39
250,000 same-sex couples married in first decade of marriage equality
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250,000 same-sex couples married in first decade of marriage equality

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, more than 250,000 same-sex couples have been married since May 2004, when Massachusetts became the first state to allow them to do so.

The figure does not include couples who married, but were subsequently divorced.

The Census Bureau's initial estimate through 2012 showed only 182,000 same-sex married couples, but data from the American Community survey increased the number substantially.

Some 8,500 of those marriages were performed here in Washington state through the end of 2013, according to the Washington State Department of Health. Same-sex marriages were conducted in 36 of this state's 39 counties, but one-quarter of all Washington marriages were performed in King County.

Because that number was counted only through the end of 2013, with 2014 marriages still unreported, it does not reflect the number of domestic partnerships that converted to marriages in June this year. There were an estimated 10,000 registered domestic partnerships in Washington state.

While the number of same-sex married couples is dwarfed by the 56 million opposite-sex married couples in the United States, the comparison is misleading.

Even now, Gay and Lesbian couples may not marry in most of the U.S., even in most states where court cases have been decided in their favor.

After Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex marriage in 2004, their courts ruled that out-of-state couples could not marry there unless same-sex marriage was also legal in their own states of residence.

It would be another four years before the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage rights, and that decision was quickly reversed by Prop 8. It would be another four years after that before Washington's state legislature passed a marriage equality bill and voters approved it in Referendum 74.

In the meantime, Connecticut legalized same-sex marriage in 2008, Iowa and Vermont in 2009, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia in 2010, and New York in 2011. Washington, Maine, and Maryland followed suit on Election Day 2012.

Rhode Island, Delaware, Minnesota, Illinois, New Jersey, and Hawaii followed by legislation in 2013, and most states now have court judgments striking down their bans on Gay and Lesbian marriages, although most of those judgments have been stayed pending appeals.

Until May of this year the U.S. Census Bureau lumped people who reported being in same-sex marriages in with unmarried couples who were living together, making it difficult to get an accurate picture of how many Gay and Lesbian Americans have actually married.

The Census Bureau also found that in 2013 only 50.3% of Americans over 18 were married - down from an all time high in 1960 when 72.2% of Americans were in opposite-sex marriages and same-sex relationships were illegal and not recorded.

In 1962 Illinois became the first U.S. state to decriminalize Gay sex between consenting adults.

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