Here we go again. Sitting on pins and needles waiting for the Supreme Court to hand down its decisions in Hollingsworth v. Perry (California’s Proposition 8) and United States v. Windsor (DOMA). If things happen the way folks think they’re going to happen, the numerical state of equality for same-sex couples won’t change. But the status of various forms of legal recognition for those couples would change dramatically.
As the Third Way’s “State of Relationship Recognition in 2013” points out, 49.5 percent of the country — more than 150 million Americans — lived in a place with some sort of relationship recognition law for gay couples.” If the court strikes down Prop 8, California’s voter-approved state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, and hands down a narrow decision that applies only to California, that percentage won’t change.
But, as the chart above shows and the report spells out more clearly, a narrow ruling from the high court would see the percentage of Americans “living in a state that allows gay couples to marry” jump 12.1 percent to 30.3 percent. And if the Justices go a step farther and apply their ruling to the seven states that offer all the rights and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples without calling their unions “marriages,” then “41.5 percent of the country would live in [a] state where gay couples could marry legally.”
The above chart puts it all into perspective. In 1996, no state allowed same-sex marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships. Still, 5 percent of the population lived in a city or county that had domestic partnerships that year. But the percentage of U.S. population living in jurisdictions with full marriage equality jumped to 18.3 this year. And 23.3 percent are living in jurisdictions with all the rights and responsibilities of marriage without the name.
As the chart shows, the percentage of Americans living where equal protection under the law truly means something has been increasing for 17 years, especially since 2004, when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage by order of the commonwealth’s highest court. Perhaps today, the nation’s highest court will extend freedom and liberty’s reach by striking down Prop 8.
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