Census sees rapid increase in same-sex couple households

In a report released Wednesday, the U.S. Census Bureau noted a 50 percent increase in same-sex couple households in America since 2010.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning issues now being debated at the Utah Legislature and elsewhere in America, the U.S. Census Bureau released a timely report Wednesday on the prevalence of same-sex couples in U.S. households.

The report, compiled by Census analysts Laquitta Walker and Danielle Taylor, is based on the most recent data from the American Community Survey (ACS). That nationwide poll by Census workers revealed that there were nearly one million same-sex couple households in America in 2019.

That number represents about 1.5 percent of the total of more than 66 million coupled households nationwide at that time, the Census analysts reported.

By comparison to ACS data from a decade earlier, the number of American same-sex households increased by about 50 percent in that period.

Even more striking is the shift in the legal status of the unions between those same-sex partners over that 10-year period.

In 2010, the ACS found that only 25 percent of gay couples living together in American households were legally married. The most recent ACS polling found that 58 percent of same-sex couples living together were now married.

Advocacy groups attribute that social sea change to a growing American acceptance of gay marriage in the wake of the 2015 Supreme Court guaranteeing that right.

In 2010, only 46 percent of Americans approved of same-sex marriage, according to the non-partisan research group NORC at the University of Chicago.

But the American Values Survey by the Public Religion Research Institute in 2020 found that 70 percent of Americans now support gay marriage.

While gay marriage appears to be gaining broad acceptance in American society, LGBTQ advocates say that is not the case for all of their concerns.

For example, the issue of whether it is discriminatory to ban transgender athletes from high school and collegiate sports is now being hotly debated at both state and national level.

A proposal to do just that was introduced by Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan, in the current general session of the Utah Legislature. That controversial proposal – House Bill 302, entitled “Preserving Sports for Female Athletes” – accrued 19 co-sponsors, including Cache Valley’s own Rep. Mike Petersen.

After two heated debates, HB 302 passed on the House floor by a more than two-to-one margin. The bill is now stalled in the Utah Senate after Gov. Spencer Cox announced that he would not support the proposal as written.

Despite Utah’s conservative culture, ACS demographers say that the incidence of same-sex households, both married and unmarried, in the state now matches the national average of about 1.5 percent of households.

The most recent ACS polling found that 11 states, plus the District of Columbia, had higher percentages of same-sex couple households than Utah.

Those states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Washington. But the District of Columbia had the highest incidence of same-sex couple households in 2019 with 7.1 percent.

The ACS is a nationwide survey designed to provide timely and reliable data on American demographic, social, economic and housing characteristics. The survey has an annual sample size of about 3.5 million addresses polled throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.

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