700,000 Americans Are Married to a Same-sex Spouse, Married Same-sex Couples More Likely to Raise Adopted, Foster Children and Are More Economically Secure, New Reports Show

For Immediate Distribution
March 5, 2015

Lauren Jow, jow@law.ucla.edu, 310-206-0314

LOS ANGELES — According to Williams Institute Research Director Gary Gates’ assessment of a new preliminary estimate from Gallup, the number of legally married same-sex couples in the United States has more than doubled over the last year. The new figures suggest that, as of February 2015, more than 700,000 Americans are part of a married same-sex couple, implying that there are now about 350,000 married same-sex couples in the country. Estimates from the 2013 National Health Interview Survey had the figure at 130,000.

“These new figures showing a surge in same-sex couples marrying across the country highlight the historic nature of the past year for LGBT individuals and their families,” said Gary J. Gates, Blachford-Cooper Distinguished Scholar and Research Director at the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.

Two new research reports released today and authored by Gates show that same-sex couples, particularly married ones, are more likely to be raising adopted or foster children than their different-sex counterparts. The reports also found that same-sex couples with children have a lower median annual income than different-sex couples with kids but, like different-sex couples, married same-sex couples are more economically secure.

“The debates about marriage and same-sex couples have focused substantial attention on the idea that marriage is a great environment for raising children,” Gates said. “Same-sex couples seem to agree. Married same-sex couples are much more likely than their unmarried counterparts to have kids, particularly adopted and foster children.”

Findings from the two Williams Institute reports will be included in a friend-of-the-court brief that will be submitted on Friday to the Supreme Court of the United States as part of the same-sex marriage cases in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. The reports analyze the 2013 American Community Survey, which for the first time explicitly identified both married and unmarried same-sex couples.

Key findings of the reports include:

• Nearly one in five same-sex couples (18%) are raising children. An estimated 122,000 same-sex couples are raising 210,000 children under age 18, of whom 58,000 are adopted or foster children. Among married same-sex couples, more than one in four (27%) are raising children.
• Married same-sex couples have a median household income that is approximately 27% higher than the median income of unmarried same-sex couples. Poverty is substantially less common among married same-sex couples (4%) than among unmarried same-sex couples (18%).
• Nearly 1 in 5 children being raised by same-sex couples is living in poverty. But among married same-sex couples, that figure is less than 1 in 10.
• In Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, 19% (nearly 11,000) of the 56,000 same-sex couples are raising children under 18 years old. Perhaps due to more restrictive policies regarding adoption and fostering among same-sex couples, same-sex couples with children in those states are less likely to have adopted or foster children (14%).

The first study, titled “Demographics of Married and Unmarried Same-sex Couples: Analyses of the 2013 American Community Survey,” analyzes nationwide data. The second study, “Demographics of Same-sex Couples in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee: Analyses of 2013 American Community Survey,” focuses on the four states whose same-sex marriage cases will be considered by the Supreme Court in June.

The following Williams Institute Scholars are available for comment:

Gary Gates is Blachford-Cooper Distinguished Scholar and Research Director at the Williams Institute. He provided “highly credible” testimony as an expert witness in the Michigan case, Deboer v. Snyder, in the 6th Circuit, and demographic analysis of Virginia from a friend-of-the-court brief he filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit was cited in the majority opinion. He is the co-author of “The Gay and Lesbian Atlas” and a recognized expert on the demographic, geographic, and economic characteristics of the LGBT population. His work on that subject has been featured in many national and international media outlets. He holds a PhD in Public Policy from the Heinz School of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University along with a Master of Divinity degree from St. Vincent College and a BS in Computer Science from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.

Adam Romero is Senior Counsel and Arnold D. Kassoy Scholar of Law at the Williams Institute. He leads the federal legal work of the Williams Institute, including the filing of amicus briefs in court cases concerning LGBT rights. Previously, Romero was a senior associate at the law firm WilmerHale, where he was a member of the Intellectual Property Litigation and Appellate and Supreme Court Litigation Groups. He successfully represented the plaintiffs in Cooper-Harris v. USA, the first case in the nation to declare unconstitutional laws barring the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages in the veterans-benefits context. Romero completed clerkships for the Honorable M. Margaret McKeown of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and for the Honorable Shira A. Scheindlin of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. He received his law degree in 2007 from Yale Law School. Romero has published in numerous volumes and journals and is the co-editor (with Martha Albertson Fineman and Jack E. Jackson) of Feminist and Queer Legal Theory: Intimate Encounters, Uncomfortable Conversations (2009).

Click here for the full national report.

Click here for the full report on Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.