Cross-posted at ThickCulture.

Good news yesterday out of New Mexico where the state’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of full marriage equality (they previously had only civil unions). On MSNBC, one commentator remarked, “We’re now 17 out of 50 on our way nationwide same-sex marriage” — a reference to the fact that New Mexico is the 17th state to have full marriage equality. But “17 out of 50” is misleading because New Mexico has less than 1% of the U.S. population (rather than the 2% suggested by 1 out of 50). Moreover, we shouldn’t assume that gays and lesbians are evenly distributed across the country. I began to wonder, how many people will actually be affected by the decision***?

I threw together this table, showing the state population sizes, the percentages of residents who identify as as gay or lesbian (according to Gallup’s largest state-by-state study to date), and then by multiplying those together, the estimated numbers of gays and lesbians in each state. Green shading means full marriage equality; yellow means domestic partnerships or civil unions.

table
As you’ll see, though the news from New Mexico is positive, it represents a very small percentage of the U.S. population. There are only 60,000 gays and lesbians in NM, which is about half of one percent of the national LGBTQ population. To have an impact on millions of gays and lesbians, we would need to see changes in populated rust-belt states like OH, PA, and MI.

Unfortunately, the two states without marriage equality with the largest number of gays and lesbians — FL and TX — seem like too steep a hill to climb politically in the near-future. However, the New Mexico case is telling as the change came through judicial decision rather than legislative action. A so-called “activist court” can produce rapid changes in policy in many places.

***Of course, other people, like children and other family members, can also benefit from same-sex marriage. I’m referring to those who might potentially marry.

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