How Many States Allow Gay Marriage or Civil Unions?

by Beverly A. Pekala on June 29, 2011

After passage of the gay marriage legislation in New York last week, many people have been wondering how many other states have legalized gay marriage or civil unions.

While New York passed gay marriage, Illinois saw the legalization of civil unions. But not gay marriage. Some states allow gay marriage, but not civil unions, and vice versa. 

The majority of states don’t provide for either gay marriage or civil unions.

To be exact, gay couples are not allowed to marry in 44 states. Civil unions are permitted in 8 states.

To some, those numbers suggest that gay rights advocates are losing the battle. However, it’s also important to note that 35% of Americans now live in states where gay couples can marry or have the benefit of a civil union.

The debate is sure to continue between supporters and opponents of gay marriage, particularly as we approach the 2012 election. Opponents argue that gay marriage legislation tends to fail when put to a general vote, rather than to a vote of the state legislature. Supporters argue that gay marriage is a demographic issue, with younger people advocating gay marriage as a civil rights issue, thereby increasing the odds of passage as time goes on if put to a general vote.

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