As the map of where gay marriage is legal has shifted and changed over the past few years, we've tracked a harder-to-measure component of the new laws: How many gay Americans live in states that allow them to marry.
In June, we anticipated that the tipping point was imminent. Based on data from Gallup surveys in 2012, a higher percentage of the country's gay population already lived in gay-marriage-legal states than the population on the whole. With Monday's Supreme Court non-decision, the percentage of gay Americans and Americans on the whole living in states where gay marriage is legal topped 50 percent.
By our estimate, the percentage of gay Americans who now live in states where they can marry is about 54.3 percent -- a bit higher than the 52 percent or so of all Americans. This is just an estimate, based on those Gallup numbers, but it's easy to see why we're comfortable with them.
If you look at the graph above, you notice two things. First, that for several years the percent of states that allowed gay marriage (out of 51, once we included DC) tracked higher than the percent of the population that lived in same-sex marriage states. That's because it was small states that moved on it first: Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire. (And, yes, Massachusetts.) Now, the percent of the population that lives in gay marriage states tracks more closely with the percent of the population overall.
Why is the percentage of gay Americans living in same-sex-legal states higher? Because higher-density states embraced the practice earlier. On Monday, four states with lower-than-average gay populations saw gay marriage become legal.
To return to a point we made on Monday: This is usually correlated to the states' politics. Gay Americans are more likely to live in states that are politically friendlier to gay people. Those states are then more likely to see legislative and judicial pushes for legalized marriage. It's very democratic -- and usually Democratic, too.
Please note: All data above is as of noon, October 7, 2014. If you are reading this article after that point, it's very possible that the map flickered again somewhere, and that we need to update our spreadsheets.