With Wednesday's federal court decision rejecting Texas' ban on gay marriages, the U.S. appears to be on the brink of a milestone. According to data from Gallup and UCLA's Williams Institute, if court rejections of gay marriage bans in Texas and three other states are upheld, just over 50 percent of gay Americans will for the first time live in states where they can legally marry.
The data on this isn't set in stone, as you might expect. The Census doesn't directly track sexual orientation, for perhaps obvious reasons. But last February, Gary Gates of the Williams Institute and Gallup's Frank Newport used population data to estimate the percentage of gays in each state. They developed the map below.
Estimated gay percentage, 2010
Washington, D.C., not pictured on the map, has the highest percentage of gays in the country, 10 percent. Otherwise, there's not a terribly big spread in the gay population in each state, with most states in the 2 to 4 percent range.
What's interesting is when you apply those percentages to the actual population. That yields the map below, showing what the actual gay population in each state was in 2010, assuming the percentage above is correct. (Full state population data is from the Census Bureau.)
Estimated gay population, 2010
Not every state with a large gay population allows gay marriage, of course. Using this map from National Journal, we broke states into three groups: those that allow gay marriage, those that don't, and those in which court decisions have thrown the question into limbo. That's the status in Texas, which is not allowing gay marriages until today's decision is appealed.
States that allow gay marriage, 2014
What's particularly interesting is when you take those three categories and actually tally the number of gay people living in each state. That gives us three values, as below.
How many gay Americans live in states where they can marry
Or, even more dramatically, we can depict that as a pie chart.
If those light blue states — Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Oklahoma — all decide to allow gay marriage (or are mandated to do so), suddenly about 53.3 percent of America's gay population will be allowed to legally marry in their home state. That's the first time that has ever been the case. It doesn't have to be all four states, either: even just Texas and Virginia can tip the scales. And if it's only Texas, that brings us to 49.3 percent of the country's gay population.
What's particularly interesting is that this news breaks on a day that America sees another milestone. A survey released on Wednesday, reported by Reuters, indicates that more than half of Americans — gay or straight — for the first time support same-sex marriage.
Some 53 percent of the 4,509 Americans surveyed by the Public Religion Research Institute said they supported gay marriage, up from 32 percent in 2003, when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize it.
The Texas decision won't be appealed for some time, so the magic 50 percent mark is some distance away. But given the trend in states allowing same-sex marriage and the broader trend in political support for the practice growing, it seems to be an inevitability.