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African-American LGBT Individuals and Same-Sex Couples: What Are Their Challenges?

By Kendall Karr, SIECUS Intern

Angeliki Kastanis and Gary J. Gates, “LGBT African-Americans and African-American Same-sex Couples.” Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law (October 2013).

Researchers explored the geographic distribution and socioeconomic characteristics of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) African-American individuals and same-sex couples in the U.S. using data from the Gallup Daily Tracking survey, the 2010 U.S. Census, and the 2008-2010 American Community Surveys. Using couples as the unit of analysis, the researchers found that the differences between African-American same-sex couples and their different-sex counterparts varied, depending on the gender of the same-sex couple and whether the couple is raising children.

Knowing the population size and location of LGBT African-American individuals and same-sex couples in the U.S. is necessary to understand the health, education, and employment challenges they face. According to study co-author Angeliki Kastanis, “LGBT African-American parents and their children evidence significant economic disadvantage and many live in states without LGBT anti-discrimination laws or marriage equality.  Establishing these important legal protections could really help these families.”[1]

Key Findings:

  • Health Insurance: LGBT African-Americans are less likely to be covered by health insurance compared to their non-LGBT counterparts. Fewer African-American same-sex couples have health insurance coverage for both partners compared to African-American different-sex couples (63% vs. 79%). The gap becomes even larger among couples raising children (54% vs. 78%).
  • Education: More LGBT African-Americans have completed a college degree or more, compared to non-LGBT African-Americans (23% vs. 26%).
  • Income: African-American same-sex couples raising children report lower household median incomes compared to African-American different-sex couples raising children. ($47,300 vs. $63,020). Childless, female African-American couples report household median incomes significantly lower than their male couple counterparts ($51,000 vs. $72,000).
  • Unemployment:LGBT African-Americans have higher rates of unemployment compared to non-LGBT African-Americans (15% vs. 12%).

The researchers have contributed a new level of detail to our understanding of the lives of LGBT African-Americans, especially those in same-sex couples. For example, they determined that more than 1/4 of all African-American same-sex couples live in just four states: Georgia, New York, Maryland and North Carolina. Furthermore, their research found that 58% of African-American same-sex couples are female. Such information is helpful to sexuality educators and policy advocates who seek to ensure effective, inclusive sexuality education programming in places where it is most needed.

The report notes, “Female couples and couples raising children are struggling economically, with couples raising children also reporting lower rates of social characteristics that may ultimately affect their families, such as insurance coverage for both partners.”[2] Although many African-American same-sex couples must cope with educational and political environments that are unsupportive of their sexual health, it is important to recognize their resilience: LGBT African-American same-sex couples have higher rates of educational attainment than their different-sex couple counterparts.

Sexuality education stakeholders should continue to seek out – and share – data on LGBT African-Americans’ lives to help advance efforts that could reduce disparities in insurance coverage, unemployment, income, and other social determinants of sexual health.

[1]Rodriguez L, Arredondo B (2013). News Release: “New report: Estimated 1 million African-American adults in the U.S. identify as LGBT,” Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law, accessed February 6, 2014,

[2]Kastanis A, Gary GJ (2013). LGBT African-Americans and African-American same-sex couples, Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law, accessed February 6, 2014,