Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Issuing Decision In Perry v. Brown (Prop. 8 Case); Williams Institute Provides Data and Commentary

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As Ruling Breaks, Institute Releases Statistics on Impact of Marriage on CA Same-Sex Couples

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Over 24,000 same-sex California couples are likely to marry within the next three years if permitted to do so.

Today at 10 AM PST (1 PM EST), the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will issue its decision in Perry v. Brown (case numbers 10-16696 and 11-16577), challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the initiative passed in 2008 that ended same-sex couples’ legal right to marry. The Williams Institute, a leading research institute on sexual orientation and gender identity law and policy, released the following statistics and references concerning the population likely to be affected most directly by the court’s decision. All of the data below is based on Williams Institute analysis, with the source of the data analyzed, or supporting publication, following in parentheses.

Jennifer Pizer, the Institute’s Legal Director and Arnold D. Kassoy Senior Scholar of Law, will be available to discuss the decision and its significance.

Dr. Gary Gates, the Williams Distinguished Scholar, will be available to discuss the demographic information provided here.

Key Williams Institute Research Findings

  •     There are nearly 100,000 same-sex couples living in California, raising more than 30,000 children under age 18. [Census 2010]
  •     28,312 same-sex California couples identified as spouses on their Census 2010 form, 27% of whom (7,676 couples) were raising children. [Census 2010]
  •     Over 24,000 same-sex California couples are likely to marry within the next three years if permitted to do so. [Williams Institute Same-sex Couple Survey, 2010]
  •     Their weddings alone will generate almost $290 million in new spending over the next three years, creating 2,600 new jobs. This does not include the spending of out-of state-couples coming to California to marry. [Williams Institute analysis, 2012]
  •     Recent research shows that when same-sex couples are allowed to marry, they gain social support from their families, a greater level of commitment to each other, and positive mental and physical health benefits.


Census 2010 reported 98,153 same-sex couples living in California.

  •     Same-sex couples live in all but one county (Alpine) in California.

o    34% of individuals in California same-sex couples are non-White
o    26.5% of individuals in California same-sex couples are 55 years of age or older.

  •     15,698 same-sex couples in California (16%) are raising more than 30,000 children.
  •     Approximately 18,000 same-sex couples married in California in 2008 before Proposition 8’s passage. An estimated 15,000 of these were California residents. [Badgett, et al., Patterns of Relationship Recognition by Same-Sex Couples in the United States (Patterns of Recognition), Williams Institute, 2011]
  •     Based on findings from the Williams Institute Same-sex Couple Survey (2010), we estimate that approximately 25,000 same-sex couples in California are legally married.
  •     Approximately 54,000 California couples are state-registered domestic partners.


  •     Approximately 50,000 same-sex couples are legally married. [Patterns of Recognition, 2011]
  •     An estimated 110,000 same-sex couples are raising more than 200,000 children. [Census 2010]
  •     Same-sex couples prefer marriage over civil unions or registered domestic partnerships, even when those non-marriage statuses extend all or almost all of the rights and obligations of marriage under state law. An average of 30% of same-sex couples married in the first year that their state allowed them to marry, while only 18% entered into a civil union or broad domestic partnership in the first year their states offered these statuses. [Patterns of Recognition, 2011]


  •     Past Williams Institute research conducted before various other states and the District of Columbia opened marriage to same-sex couples estimated that weddings of resident and visiting same-sex couples would have substantial positive effects on the California economy and tax revenues if same-sex couples are permitted to marry. [Sears, et al., The Impact of Extending Marriage to Same-Sex Couples on the California Budget, Williams Institute, 2008]
  •     Adjusting past figures to account for already married same-sex couples, an additional 24,000 same-sex California couples are likely to marry within the next three years if permitted to do so. [Williams Institute Same-sex Couple Survey, 2010]
  •     In light of average wedding spending by California residents, and considering only likely weddings of California-resident same-sex couples, an economic boost of at least $290 million in direct spending is likely during the first three years. This would create and sustain approximately 2,600 jobs.


The opportunity to marry has positive health consequences for same-sex couples:

  •     Same-sex couples gain social support from their families and a greater level of commitment to each other when they can marry. [Ramos, et al., The Effects of Marriage Equality in Massachusetts: A Survey of the Experiences and Impact of Marriage on Same-Sex Couples, Williams Institute, 2009]
  •     Although lesser forms of legal recognition for one’s same-sex relationship had positive health effects for the gay men studied, being legally married boosted emotional health to a greater extent than being in a legally recognized domestic partnership or civil union. [R. Wight, et al., Stress and Mental Health Among Midlife and Older Gay-Identified Men, American Journal of Public Health, Jan. 19, 2012]
  •     The stress that comes from social exclusion and stigma can lead to adverse health outcomes such as depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, and suicide attempts. [Badgett, et al., Written Testimony: S.598, The Respect for Marriage Act: Assessing the Impact of DOMA on American Families, pages 10-12, Williams Institute, 2011]

The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy advances law and public policy through rigorous, independent research and scholarship, and disseminates its work through a variety of education programs and media to judges, legislators, lawyers, other policy makers, and the public.


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Cathy Renna

Jennifer Pizer