Growth rate of same-sex couples in Kansas spiked in 2014

The number of same-sex couples in Kansas grew by more than 60 percent in 2014, according to a new study by the Department of the Treasury. That put Kansas in the top third of states in the country for growth.

The federal government doesn’t track the number of same-sex couples – marriages are typically performed in cities and counties. So the Treasury study relied on how many couples filed joint tax returns. This has been a reliable measure of heterosexual couples in the past; about 97.5 percent of married couples have filed jointly.

Even though Kansas saw huge growth in 2014, the state’s overall percentage of same-sex couples is still lower than in most states. Eight states had a lower percentage of same-sex couples when compared with the percentage of couples overall.

About 750 same-sex couples in Kansas filed joint tax returns in 2014, an increase from 460 same-sex couples in 2013. That’s less than 0.2 percent of all couples in Kansas. Massachusetts and Vermont, the states with the highest percentages, each have percentages more than five times as high as Kansas’. Both those states legalized gay marriage years before Kansas did.

The study found more than 180,000 same-sex couples and more than 50 million heterosexual couples, meaning about a quarter of 1 percent of all couples in the U.S. who filed taxes jointly are the same gender.

Because the study relied on tax returns, it captures only those couples who filed together in 2014. Some Kansas couples said that, even though technically same-sex marriage had been legalized in the state that year, conflicts between local and national laws made them wait for the Supreme Court to declare a national right to marriage in 2015.

The percentages of same-sex marriage are likely to increase, according to some evidence in the study, which showed a direct relationship between how long a state had allowed same-sex marriages and the percentage of same-sex marriages.

The age of individuals in same-sex marriages was similar to the age of heterosexual individuals, except for one group: those 65 and older. Nearly 22 percent of heterosexual marriages involved people 65 and older, but only 10 percent of same-sex marriages included individuals 65 and older. One possible explanation is that the legalization of gay marriage came too late for some couples.

Same-sex couples earned about $30,000 more per year than heterosexual couples, according to the study, and in Kansas, there are about twice as many lesbian couples as male same-sex married couples.

Oliver Morrison: 316-268-6499, @ORMorrison