Skip to main content
ABC News
Same-Sex Marriage Availability Set to Double in One-Year Span

The Supreme Court’s rulings on a pair of landmark cases on Wednesday, which overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act and effectively legalized same-sex marriage in California, are the latest in a recent series of legal and legislative victories for same-sex marriage advocates worldwide.

By Aug. 1, same-sex marriage will be legal in California, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Washington — all states where it was not legal one year earlier.

There are about 59 million people living in these seven states, which means that the availability of same-sex marriage in the United States as a percentage of population will have more than doubled within the year. As of early last year, same-sex marriage was legal only in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and the District of Columbia, which have 35 million people among them.

The availability of same-sex marriage is increasing almost as rapidly on a global scale. It was legalized in Brazil and France earlier this year and will become legal in Uruguay and New Zealand by August.

A decision last month by a Brazilian judicial panel that is generally seen as legalizing same-sex marriage, but could be subject to appeal, is especially important to this math. Brazil has a population of about 194 million — more than the combined 169 million in the nine countries in Europe where same-sex marriage is now legal. The most recent decision followed court rulings that had authorized same-sex marriage in more than a dozen Brazilian states.

Earlier this year, France, with a population of about 64 million, became the largest European country to legalize same-sex marriage, and the largest in the world to do so by legislative action.

By August, there will be about 585 million people living in countries or jurisdictions where same-sex marriage is legal. That is roughly double the 289 million people living in such places in August 2012. (These calculations are based on the most recent population estimates and do not account for population growth.)

Still, that represents only about 8 percent of the global population. No country in Asia, which has well more than half the world’s people, has authorized same-sex marriage.

Instead, it’s the New World that has taken the lead. Of the 585 million people living in jurisdictions where same-sex marriage will be legal by August, about 360 million are in the Americas.

With the coming resumption of same-sex marriage in California, where it was legal for a brief period in 2008 before voters passed Proposition 8, the United States will surpass Europe in the availability of same-sex marriage as measured by share of the population. By August, about 95 million Americans out of a population of 314 million — about 30 percent — will live in states where same-sex marriage is legal. In Europe, that number is 169 million residents out of a population of 736 million, or about 23 percent.

Nate Silver founded and was the editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.