Two fathers and their daughter. Photo Credit: Elvert Barnes, via Flickr. Licensed CC.

Who stands to gain when the Carolinas finally open its marriage rolls to same-sex couples? Thousands — in fact, as many as nearly 28,000 same-sex couples spread across the region.

There’s a lot to gain and a lot at stake in the legal maneuvering over the next few days. When orders finally come down overturning North Carolina’s and South Carolina’s anti-LGBT marriage amendments, tens of thousands of couples will be eligible for marriage recognition. With that legal recognition comes a host of protections and benefits affecting couples in nearly every county and census tract across the region.


What’s at stake?

According to the Human Rights Campaign, some 1,138 benefits, rights and protections are provided to married couples under federal law, including Social Security and tax benefits, family and medical leave and immigration recognition.

States and local governments might also further benefits or protections. In states like the Carolinas, anti-LGBT amendments placed undue burdens on same-sex couples already married legally elsewhere. When tax time rolled around earlier this year, many couples were forced to file a joint federal tax return and separate single state tax returns.

In fact, North Carolina tax returns made the marriage prohibition clear as day this year:

The new NC-4 long form contains a reminder of North Carolina's anti-gay marriage discrimination. Click to enlarge.


The couples

The number of same-sex couples, according to 2013 American Community Survey estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau:

North Carolina — 19,327
Of these, 33.5 percent, or 6,474 couples, are already married, having entered into legal marriages in other jurisdictions.

South Carolina — 8,347
Of these, 30.9 percent, of 2,579 couples, are already married.


The demographics

Both in North Carolina and South Carolina, 56 percent of couples were female and 44 percent were male, according to 2010 census figures analyzed by the UCLA Williams Institute.


The families

North Carolina — 18 percent of all same-sex couples were raising their own* children. That percentage rose to 33 percent among married same-sex couples.

South Carolina — 19 percent of all same-sex couples were raising their own* children. Like North Carolina, that percentage rose to 31 percent among those couples who were married.

* – “own” children defined by the UCLA Williams Institute as “never-married children under 18 who are sons or daughters of one partner or souse (Person 1) by the birth, marriage (step-child), or adoption.”


The geography

Same-sex couples were found in nearly every county and census tract across both Carolinas. Estimates from the UCLA Williams Institute:

North Carolina, top five highest density of couples by county:
nc-samesexcouples-map1. Buncombe — 1,200 couples — 11.95*
2. Durham — 1,059 couples — 9.69
3. Orange — 399 couples — 7.76
4. Mecklenburg — 2,426 couples — 6.70
5. Transylvania — 94 couples — 6.52
(16. Guilford — 1,116 — 5.68)
(20. Wake — 1,788 — 5.17)

South Carolina, top five highest density of couples by county:
sc-samesexcouples-map1. Jasper — 51 couples — 5.94*
2. Charleston — 801 couples — 5.55
3. Richland — 779 couples — 5.37
4. Marion — 66 couples — 5.04
5. Horry — 556 couples — 4.96
(15. Spartanburg — 413 couples — 3.78)
(16. Greenville — 656 couples — 3.72)

* – per 1,000 households

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.

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