June 26, 2017

5 facts about same-sex marriage

Partners Kevin Foster (right) and Joey Thibodeaux place wedding bands on each other’s fingers during their same-sex wedding ceremony in Florida. (AP Photo/Alex Menendez)
Partners Kevin Foster (right) and Joey Thibodeaux place wedding bands on each other’s fingers during their same-sex wedding ceremony in Florida. (AP Photo/Alex Menendez)

On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling that granted same-sex couples a constitutional right to marry. The 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges legalized gay marriage nationwide, including in the 14 states that did not previously allow gays and lesbians to wed. The decision rested in part on the court’s interpretation of the 14th Amendment; the justices ruled that limiting marriage only to heterosexual couples violates the amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.

Here are five key facts about same-sex marriage:

1Public support for same-sex marriage has grown rapidly over the past decade. In 2007, Americans opposed legalizing same-sex marriage by a margin of 54% to 37%. A new Pew Research Center survey finds that by roughly two-to-one, more Americans support (62%) than oppose (32%) allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally.

2Although support has increased across the board, demographic divides over same-sex marriage remain. Differences are particularly pronounced among religious groups. Today, 85% of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated favor same-sex marriage, as do 68% of white mainline Protestants and 67% of Catholics. Among black Protestants, 44% favor same-sex marriage (50% oppose). And while just 35% of white evangelical Protestants favor same-sex marriage, this is more than double the level of a decade ago (14% in 2007). Generational differences also remain wide, though support among older generations also is on the rise: 74% of Millennials (now ages 18 to 36) and 65% of Generation Xers (ages 37 to 52) now support same-sex marriage, compared with 56% of Baby Boomers (ages 53 to 71) and 41% of those in the Silent Generation (ages 72 to 89).

3Same-sex marriages are on the rise. Surveys conducted by Gallup over the past year find that about one-in-ten LGBT Americans (10.2%) are married to a same-sex partner, up from the months before the high court decision (7.9%). As a result, a majority (61%) of same-sex cohabiting couples are now married, up from 38% before the ruling.

4Just like the general public, Americans who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) are most likely to cite love as a very important reason for getting married. In a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, 84% of LGBT adults and 88% of the general public cited love as a very important reason for getting married, and at least seven-in-ten in both groups cited companionship (71% and 76%, respectively). But there were some differences, too. LGBT Americans, for instance, were twice as likely as those in the general public to cite legal rights and benefits as a very important reason for getting married (46% versus 23%), while those in the general public were nearly twice as likely as LGBT Americans to cite having children (49% versus 28%).

5The U.S. is among more than 20 countries or jurisdictions that allow gay and lesbian couples to wed. The first nation to legalize gay marriage was the Netherlands, which did so in 2000. Since then, several other European countries – including Spain, France, all of Scandinavia and, most recently, Ireland – have begun to sanction gay marriage. Outside of Europe, same-sex marriage is now legal in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, New Zealand, South Africa and Uruguay, as well as in parts of Mexico. And following a recent court ruling, Taiwan appears to be on track to join the list.

Note: This is an update to a post originally published April 27, 2015, and updated on June 26, 2015. It was originally co-authored by Seth Motel, a former research analyst at Pew Research Center.

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Lifestyle, Supreme Court, Gay Marriage and Homosexuality

  1. Photo of David Masci

    is a senior writer/editor focusing on religion at Pew Research Center.

  2. Photo of Anna Brown

    is a research analyst focusing on social and demographic trends at Pew Research Center.

  3. Photo of Jocelyn Kiley

    is an associate director of research at Pew Research Center.