Last month’s Dobbs decision from the Supreme Court, which overturned Roe v. Wade, also contained some news about same-sex marriage. In his majority opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote about his desire to reconsider other precedents from the high court including 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized marriage between people of the same sex.
But reversing that decision would not be easy and the landscape around the issue has shifted sharply in the last decade.
Data show there have been dramatic increases in support of gay marriage and in how many Americans self-identify as LGBTQ. Furthermore, there are signs of a generational shift among young people who have grown up in the years since same-sex marriage has been legalized, marked by an increase in LGBT self-identification in recent years is remarkable.
Looking at the data, 2012 stands out as crucial year in the story of LGBTQ acceptance in the United States. On May 9 of that year, former President Obama announced he supported gay marriage. Later that year, the number of Americans who supported it jumped above 50% in Gallup’s polling data and it has never dipped below since.
Until then, the number favoring legal same-sex marriage generally bounced around in the 40s, rising and falling often around events in the news or political positioning by the major parties. But the official endorsement by the White House seemed to push the numbers higher.
Three years later, in June of 2015, the Supreme Court decided Obergefell and the support for same-sex marriage climbed above 60%. Support for legal same-sex marriage has not dipped below 60% in Gallup’s data since then. Support for the unions currently stands at a record 71%.
Those are big numbers and big changes in societal attitudes, and they may be playing a role in who “self-identifies” as LGBTQ. The number of Americans who describe themselves as something other than heterosexual has more than doubled since 2012.
To be clear, that does not mean the number of people who actually are LGBTQ has climbed that much in that time — or even that the number reflects the actual percentage of Americans who personally identify as LGBTQ. In some sense, “self-identifying” as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual, even in a survey, is an act of feeling comfortable sharing that information with the broader public — and for some respondents, that may have become easier as same-sex marriage became a more accepted part of the culture.