On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. One question the Court ignored—and which few people ever truly considered—was whether there is an actual demand for same-sex marriage.
In an attempt to provide an answer we must first determine how many people would be interested in same-sex marriage.
How Many Americans Are Homosexual?
For years the general public has revealed in surveys that they believe about 1 in 4 Americans (23 percent) are gay or lesbian. For whatever reason, whether due to the skewed focus on homosexual issues or because Americans are just bad at math, the estimates are about six times higher than reality. Taking the average across surveys about sexual orientation reveals that only about 3.8 percent of adults self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
The population of the U.S. in 2014 was 319 million. Approximately 23.3 percent are younger than 18, which puts the adult population at 245 million adults. That gives us an estimate of 9.3 million who identify as LGBT.
A review of the survey data also shows that 1.2 percent of adults are bisexual compared to 1.4 percent who are lesbian or gay—that is, just over half are lesbian or gay and just under half are bisexual. But we’re looking for the number of same-sex couples who would be interested in marriage, so we need to break the numbers down even further.
Approximately 6.8 percent of adults report having had both same-sex and different-sex sexual partners since the age of 18. Only 1 percent say they have had only same-sex sexual partners since the age of 18. By this standard, nearly nine out of ten LGB adults (87 percent) are bisexual. That’s a revealing statistic, but not particularly useful for our purposes.
However, if we only consider sexual behaviors in the last five years or in the last year, we find that 1.9 percent of adults have had exclusively same-sex sexual partners, and 1.5 percent have had both same-sex and different-sex partners.
How Many Same-Sex Marriages Should We Expect?
Let’s assume this group of self-identified gays and lesbians (1.9 percent of adults) would prefer to marry someone of the same sex. For the sake of simplicity, let’s also assume that half of all bisexuals (0.75 percent of all adults) would also prefer to marry someone of the same-sex. That gives us a pool of 8.5 million U.S adults who may be interested in same-sex marriage, a potential for 4.3 million same-sex marriage couplings.
Now let’s look at the number of marriages. In 2014, approximately 49.8 percent of the American adults (159 million) were married, or about 80 million couples. Almost one out of every two American adults was married. By that year, 35 states allowed same-sex marriage.
Let’s suspend judgment for the moment and assume that lesbians, gays, and currently same-sex oriented bisexuals have the same interest in marriage as heterosexuals. For the sake of argument, we’ll also assume that any lesbian or gay couple who wanted to get married could have either married in their own state or crossed state lines to get a marriage license. In addition, we’ll also assume that, like the general population, one out of every two lesbians and gay men would choose to be married.
Based on those assumptions (all of which I think are more than plausible), we should expect to see 2.2 million same-sex marriages even before the Supreme Court ruling.
How Many Same-Sex Marriages Are There in America?
How many were there? The best estimate is 170,000.
In other words, that is only about 8 percent of the number of same-sex marriage we should expect to find. Out of the pool of 8.5 million U.S adults we would expect to be interested in same-sex marriage, only 340,000 sought a marriage license. Of the population that identifies as LGBT, a mere 4 percent are in a “same-sex marriage.”
Even after the Supreme Court ruling that number is not likely to increase. Because same-sex marriage has been legal in most parts of the country for several years, there was not a lot of pent-up demand when the ruling came down (in Texas, a state of 30 million people, only 465 same-sex couples sought a marriage license on the first day they were eligible). Even if the number were to double to 8 percent in the next decade—a completely unrealistic expectation—fewer than one in ten LGBT Americans would be married. And no one I’ve seen who has thoroughly examined the statistics predicts the number of same-sex marriages will reach 500,000 over the next decade, much less 1 million to 2 million in the next few years.
Same-sex marriage became the law of the land without anything close to proportional demand by homosexuals to actually marry someone of the same sex. There are likely many more polyamorists who would be interested in getting married than same-sex couples. Indeed, when polygamy is legalized (an issue we’ll consider in a future article), the number will likely be double or triple the number of two-person same-sex marriages.
For more than a decade both same-sex marriage activists and social conservatives have claimed that the LGBT community has little interest in monogamous, traditional forms of marriage and that the goal was merely to normalize homosexual relationships. Both groups were ignored or shouted down, yet the marriage statistics show they were right all along.
However, homosexuals are not the only group showing a lack of interest in marriage. In the next post in this series we’ll examine the past 144 years of marriage and divorce data in America to discover when the “decline” aspect of the marriage revolution really began.