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Marriage Census: How Many of Us Can Marry Who We Love?

By Sunnivie Brydum

With today's landmark ruling from the Supreme Court effectively invalidating California's Proposition 8, more than 3.6 million LGBT Americans are now free to marry the person they love. In total, roughly 30% of the U.S. population now resides in a state that embraces marriage equality. 

These calculations aren’t hard science, but are gleaned from U.S. Census population data in each state with marriage equality, compared with data from a 2012 Gallup poll conducted with the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, which gauged the percentage of self-identified LGBT adults in each state.

When the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals formally lifts its order keeping Prop. 8 in place — a procedural action that California attorney general Kamala Harris urged the lower court to take sooner than its standard 25-day waiting period — gay and lesbian Californians can once again begin getting married. County clerks in Los Angeles and several other California counties indicated that their offices are ready to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as soon as the lower court lifts the stay, but not until then.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the proponents who brought Proposition 8 to the ballot did not have legal standing to appeal a federal district court's finding that Prop. 8 was unconstitutional. While the nation's highest court declined to rule on the merits of the case or make any decision regarding voter-approved bans on marriage equality in general, it did order the case back to the lower court, with instructions to dismiss the appeal. Because of this, out former federal judge Vaughn Walker's ruling that Prop. 8 violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution and reflected personal bias against gay and lesbian Californians stands as the definitive legal verdict in the case. 

Find out more about the historic Supreme Court rulings here.

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