Celebrating Pride Month

Same-sex couples make up 2% of all couples living together in the region

At midnight on December 9, 2012, couples lined up in courthouses in King, Kitsap, Pierce, and Snohomish counties to be among the first same-sex partners in Washington to get married.

Nearly a decade later, there are now more than 12,000 same-sex married couples living in the region, according to the Census Bureau. Another 7,000 same-sex couples live together but aren’t married. As is also the case with opposite-sex couples, same-sex partners who live together are more likely to be married than not.

In celebration of Pride Month, PSRC is looking at data about same-sex couples in the region.

The Census reports that cohabitating same-sex couples make up 1.5% of all married couples in the region. Same-sex couples make up a slightly larger proportion of unwed couples who live together (5.9%).

Altogether, same-sex couples make up 2% of the partnered households in the region.

Although Seattle’s Capitol Hill has historically been viewed as the epicenter of the region’s gay community, same-sex couples live all around the region.

As the map below shows, several census tracts in Seattle have concentrations of married same-sex couples nearly as large as Capitol Hill, especially in the Bryant/Hawthorne Hills, Leschi, and West Seattle neighborhoods. But there are also tracts elsewhere in the region with large numbers of married same-sex households, such as in Redmond, Bonney Lake, Mukilteo, and Vashon Island.

Households With Same-Sex Married Couples by Census Tract

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2015-2019 5-year estimates

 

We depend on Census Bureau data to learn about people who live in the region’s communities. But, for various reasons, the Census does not ask about people’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

In recent years, the Census Bureau has given partnered people the option to identify relationships as same-sex. Only couples where both individuals identified as male or as female are included in the data.

This provides a limited view of LGBTQ+ people, a historically marginalized and undercounted community.

And it shows that even the matter of data is subject to shifts in cultural acceptance, as well as policies and practice regarding marriage equality.

The methodologies used by the U.S. Census to describe relationships have evolved in the past three decades. Data from previous years are not always comparable due to these changes in methodologies and definitions.

For example, prior to 2019, the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey provided data about unmarried partner households by sex of partner. This was not available in 2019. The table below from 2018 looked only at unmarried households, but it provides useful detail about the sex of cohabitating partners.

Celebrating diversity and making the region a welcoming place to people of all backgrounds is essential to the region’s quality of life and culture of innovation.

Find more local Census data on PSRC’s website.