In a historic decision, the Supreme Court ruled today that the 14th Amendment requires states to license marriages between people of the same sex. The decision affects the lives of tens of thousands of Americans: About half the country’s unmarried LGBT adults said they would like to get married someday, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey.
Among the large majority of LGBT respondents who were unmarried or separated at the time of the survey, 52% said they would like to get married in the future, while 15% said they would not want to get married and a third (33%) were not sure.
In 2013, 16% of LGBT adults identified as already legally married, though gay men (4%) and lesbians (6%) were far less likely to be currently married than bisexual men (23%) or bisexual women (32%); most spouses of bisexuals were of the opposite sex.
There is overwhelming support for same-sex marriage among LGBT adults. Our survey, conducted online using the GfK Knowledge Networks panel, found that 93% were supportive of same-sex marriage, with 74% strongly in favor. There was less agreement on whether the fight for legalization should be a top priority for the community: 58% said it should, while 39% said the push for same-sex marriage took too much attention away from other important issues.
Why get married?
In general, LGBT adults and the American public overall have similar views about which reasons for marriage are important.
In the 2013 survey, 84% of LGBT adults said love was a very important reason to get married; in a survey of the general public that year, 88% shared that view. By wide margins, companionship and lifelong commitment were the next-most important reasons for LGBT adults, as well as for U.S. adults overall.
But LGBT adults differed in a few regards: 46% said that getting legal rights and benefits was a very important reason to marry, twice the share of the overall public (23%). Gay men (60%) and lesbians (56%) were particularly likely to say this is a very important reason.
LGBT adults placed less priority on some other factors for marriage. While 28% of LGBT adults cited having children as a very important reason to wed, about half of U.S. adults (49%) said that was a very important reason. LGBT adults were also less likely than the overall public to say that a top reason for marriage is to have a relationship recognized in a religious ceremony (17% vs. 30%).
The high court’s decision comes on the heels of surging public support for same-sex marriage: 57% of Americans favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, up from 36% in 2005 and 27% in 1996.
Democrats and Republicans both have become more likely to support same-sex marriage over the past decade, but a large gap remains. In a Pew Research survey conducted in May, 65% of Democrats favored allowing same-sex marriage (up from 45% in 2005), compared with 34% of Republicans (up from 19% a decade ago).
While there are significant divides on the issue by religion and age, most Americans have come to see legal recognition of gay marriage as “inevitable.” Back in May, that view was held by an equal number (72%) of Republicans and Democrats as well as 74% of independents.