State of Rainbow Spring: 12 States Allow Same-Sex Marriage, as Illinois Debates

Jody Brannon

With Rhode Island, Delaware, and Minnesota this month joining the rainbow bandwagon of states allowing same-sex marriage, the total is 12, and counting. Twenty-four percent of states now allow gay weddings, and, according to the Williams Institute, a think tank based at the UCLA law school, about one in five same-sex couples live in a state in which they can marry.

Next up is Illinois, which would become the second-largest state, behind New York, to allow such nuptials. The Illini state's lawmakers typically adjourn for the summer on May 31, so it's in doubt whether they can take action by Friday. While the state Senate approved the proposal on Feb. 14, the measure has met with more opposition in the House, especially from lawmakers getting an earful from conservative churchgoers, including African-Americans. (That's despite a Gallup Poll released Wednesday showing religious influence waning across the United States.)

Said Dale Carpenter II, a professor of civil liberties at the University of Minnesota law school: "The polling data do indicate somewhat lower levels of support among black respondents, but that seems to correlate more to churchgoing than to race. Frequency of church attendance is one of the best indicators of support for [same-sex marriage], regardless of race. The most frequent churchgoers [weekly or more often] are most opposed, while the least-frequent churchgoers [a few times a year or not at all] are most likely to support SSM."

Politicking on the measure continues in Chicago and beyond as the vote looms.

If Illinois gays don't find themselves living in the 13th state to grant them rights to wed, the number of states may stay about the same for while—at least until the Supreme Court rules, presumably next month, on its two outstanding cases. Court observers are on the fence as to whether the recent uptick in states supporting same-sex marriage will influence the justices.

"The vast majority of the states have decided to retain the traditional view of marriage that has existed throughout Western civilization," attorney Jim Campbell of the Alliance Defending Freedom told the Associated Press. "This decision belongs to the people and should be decided by the people."

If it's left to the people, the demographic composition—and, of course, political leanings—provides some interesting insights into those states that so far have passed same-sex marriage laws.


Here's a closer look at Illinois's demographics, which closely track to the U.S. average, regardless of political persuasion:

Of those states allowing men to marry men and women to marry women, six of the dozen are in New England, dominated by whites, especially in tiny Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Together, the population of those three states is only a quarter of Illinois's nearly 12.9 million residents (2010 census) and far more Caucasian (averaging 92.7 percent white, compared with Illinois at 73.5 percent and Chicago at 31.7 percent).

Nine of the states with laws allowing same-sex marriage are governed by Democrats; two have Republican governors, and one governor is an independent.

Also interesting is the actual number of same-sex couples in the 12 states, plus the District of Columbia.

Including D.C., the laws pertain to 159,370 couples, according to an analysis of census figures released recently by the Williams Institute. 

The total population of those 12 states is 56.2 million; about 23 percent of the people are 18 and younger. That means the marriage law pertains to .5 percent (318,740 individuals) of roughly 43.3 million people in those rainbow states. The Williams Institute estimates the U.S. gay population at 9 million people, or about 3.5 percent of the nation's population of nearly 314 million.

Should Illinois and, depending on the Supreme Court rulings, California extend marriage to same-sex couples, 41 percent of gay couples would live in states allowing marriage equality, according to another Williams analysis