Census | Gay Marriage

In First-Ever Count, Census Bureau Reports 131,729 Same-Sex Married Couples in the U.S.

The U.S. Census Bureau has released its first-ever estimated count of same-sex couples in the U.S.:

House The U.S. Census Bureau released today new statistics on same-sex married couple and unmarried partner households. According to revised estimates from the 2010 Census, there were 131,729 same-sex married couple households and 514,735 same-sex unmarried partner households in the United States.

The results of the 2010 Census revised estimates are closer to the results of the 2010 American Community Survey (ACS) for same-sex married and unmarried partners. The 2010 ACS estimated same-sex married couples at 152,335 and same-sex unmarried partners at 440,989.

The new, preferred figures revise earlier estimates of same-sex unmarried partners released this summer from the 2010 Census Summary File 1 because Census Bureau staff discovered an inconsistency in the responses in the 2010 Census summary file statistics that artificially inflated the number of same-sex couples.  In addition, a breakdown of couples who reported as same-sex spouses is now available. The summary file counts originally showed that there were 349,377 married couple households and 552,620 same-sex unmarried partner households.

Statistics on same-sex couple households are derived from two questions on the census and ACS questionnaire: relationship to householder and the sex of each person. When data were captured for these two questions on the 2010 Census door-to-door form, the wrong box may have been checked for the sex of a small percentage of opposite-sex spouses and unmarried partners. Because the population of opposite-sex married couples is large and the population of same-sex married couples in particular is small, an error of this type artificially inflates the number of same-sex married partners.

After discovering the inconsistency, Census Bureau staff developed another set of estimates to provide a more accurate way to measure same-sex couple households. The revised figures were developed by using an index of names to re-estimate the number of same-sex married and unmarried partners by the sex commonly associated with the person's first name.

Census The Bureau adds: "The 2010 Census preferred estimates have been peer-reviewed by Gary Gates, a demographer with the UCLA School of Law's Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, by Philip Cohen, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and by Megan Sweeney, professor of sociology at UCLA. These experts concluded the methodology behind these revised estimates was sound."

According to a separate release from the Williams Institute:

The Williams Institute conducted a survey of same-sex couples immediately after Census 2010 showing that most same-sex couples who described themselves as spouses are in legally recognized relationships, but not all are actually married. The analyses suggest that approximately 70% reported that they were legally married, and another 15% said that they were in civil unions or registered domestic partnerships. The remaining 15% indicated that while they were not actually in a legally recognized relationship, they considered themselves to be spouses.

Same-sex couples can marry in six states and the District of Columbia. Thirteen states offer non-marital forms of relationship recognition like civil unions or registered domestic partnership.

The Williams Institute estimates that about 50,000 same-sex couples have married in the following states, and in the following numbers: Massachusetts (2004-2009) 16,129; California (2008) 18,000; Connecticut (2008-2010) 6,752; Iowa (2009-2010) 2,099; Vermont (2009-2010) 1,425; New Hampshire (2010) 1,805; District of Columbia (2010) 3,500. Data on marriages in New York are not yet available. In addition, as many as 30,000 same-sex couples may have been married outside of the US. The Williams Institute also estimates that approximately 100,000 same-sex couples are in non-marital forms of relationship recognition like civil unions and registered domestic partnerships.

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  1. I never get tired of seeing that picture.

    Posted by: The Milkman | Sep 27, 2011 3:11:19 PM

  2. I wonder how many bi-national couples such as we are listed themselves as "roommates" because of the threat of CIS finding out and deporting the foreign national because his/her marriage indicates an intent to remain in the US?

    That's what we did, and I'll bet a lot of other couples did, too. When you go through customs and get asked seeming innocuous trick questions like, "Where do you live?" You learn very quickly not to trust anybody or any thing.

    Why is that a trick question? Because anyone who has been living here legally for any length of time would say his/her US address. We have a friend who did just that when returning from a visit to her home country, and when she said "Los Angeles" she was put on a plane back to her home country and barred from any re-entry for ten years.

    I think that there are a good many other couples like us and, consequently, the number of married same-sex couples is probably higher than reported.

    Posted by: TomTallis | Sep 27, 2011 3:38:49 PM

  3. what picture?

    Posted by: me | Sep 27, 2011 3:39:49 PM

  4. The picture of the guy with the red hair embracing his new husband. It's super touching.

    Posted by: The Milkman | Sep 27, 2011 3:46:28 PM

  5. Hooray! We (Greg and me and Stevie) are legally married and legally counted. So proud to be counted! Marriage and having a child (Steven, now almost 5!) have been the best things I've ever done. As a little boy I dreamed of having a handsome husband and a coupla kids. It happened when I least expected it. We had been together almost a year when one morning Greg climbed into the shower and said, "You know I love you, right?" he had never said those words to me before and I was a little speechless. He kissed me and then very quietly whisprered into my ear, "Will you marry me?"

    So there you have it. Seven years later and I wouldn't want to be married to anyone else.

    Posted by: OS2Guy | Sep 27, 2011 3:52:20 PM

  6. Wow! That's a lot! Wonderful.
    @Milkman, I agree, very touching picture.

    Posted by: Matt26 | Sep 27, 2011 3:59:25 PM

  7. well...I am certain that there are a lot more than that because I am certain that many of the unmarried-living together were afraid to put down their real status. I know I had to think about it before I did it, but in the end I submitted that I live with my partner of 12 years.

    Posted by: paul | Sep 27, 2011 5:00:11 PM

  8. That estimate is crap. I simply refuse to believe it. For the ENTIRE country? No way.

    Posted by: Morgan | Sep 27, 2011 6:00:26 PM

  9. OS2GUY, I applaud your restraint. Usually you'd go into a page long narrative about how you married your str8 friend. Always emphasizing the straight part and how he didn't know, etc. Thank you for sparing us the details. And congratulations on your blissful married life.

    Posted by: sugarrhill | Sep 27, 2011 7:01:17 PM

  10. @Sugarhill


    I had a Census worker come to my home and made sure my bf/partner and I were counted as same sex domestic partners. People need to know we exist.

    Posted by: Brian in Texas | Sep 27, 2011 7:41:17 PM

  11. @TomTallis
    I too am part of a binational couple, and it's one of the most complicated and stressful things to navigate when it comes to travel and government regulations. I certainly understand the fear but I'm sorry you felt you had to hide your relationship on the census form. I worked as an Enumerator for the 2010 Census, going door to door and filing reports. I can assure you that legally, no other government agency is allowed to used census data for anything other than statistical analysis, and all personally identifiable information of individuals is held confidentially for 75 years by the Census Bureau, so your names would be safe from CIS.

    Also, it seems to me that these estimates are a little low for a country of 300 million. Though I don't doubt there was a lot of under-reporting by couples themselves and a lack of nuance by other census counters when combing forms for statistical information.

    Posted by: Kyle | Sep 27, 2011 11:24:56 PM

  12. I also want to add that as Enumerators we were obliged to attempt to count all people at a given address regardless of immigration status as no deportations can be performed as a result of Census data collection, by law. On my door to door field surveys I met several households of illegal immigrants. I was only legally required to write down the number of people. The sex and relationship to head of household, names or birth dates were not required.

    Posted by: Kyle | Sep 27, 2011 11:34:32 PM

  13. Good article, Each and every point is good enough.Thanks for sharing with us your wisdom.

    Posted by: burberry sale | Sep 28, 2011 4:18:57 AM

  14. Our census form did not even ask for this info, just how many people lived in the house and their names. It did not ask about relationships at all. If this was a common variety of the forms, then the count would be way low.

    Posted by: CFOX | Sep 28, 2011 5:46:54 PM

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