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2006 Census: Family portrait: Continuity and change in Canadian families and households in 2006: National portrait: Census families

Same-sex married couples counted for the first time

For the first time, the census counted same-sex married couples, reflecting the legalization of same-sex marriages for all of Canada, as of July 2005.1

The 2006 Census enumerated 45,300 same-sex couples. Of these, about 7,500 or 16.5% were married couples.

Canada became the third country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, after the Netherlands (2000) and Belgium (2003). Spain (2005) and South Africa (2006) became the fourth and fifth countries, respectively, where same-sex marriage can legally occur. Other countries have various other laws and policies. For example, Israel recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other countries. In the United States, Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage in 2004, the only state to have done so.

Table 2 Distribution of couples by conjugal status, Canada, 2001 and 2006

The counts of same-sex couples are not large, yet growth was still quite dramatic during the intercensal period. The number of same-sex couples surged 32.6% between 2001 and 2006, five times the pace of opposite-sex couples (+5.9%).

In 2006, same-sex couples represented 0.6% of all couples in Canada. This is similar to 2006 data from New Zealand (0.7%) and Australia (0.6%) and higher than Ireland (0.2%).2 While not directly comparable, in the United States, same-sex couples comprised 0.7% of households in 2005.3

Over half (53.7%) of same-sex married spouses were men in 2006, compared with 46.3% who were women. Proportions were similar for same-sex common-law partners in both 2006 and 2001. Male couples were also more predominant in Australia and Ireland, while female couples predominated in New Zealand.

Children were present in the home for less than one-tenth of persons in same-sex couples. About 9.0% of individuals in same-sex couples had children in 2006. This was more common for women in same-sex couples (16.3%) than for men (2.9%).

Same-sex married spouses were more likely to have children present in the home compared to same-sex common-law partners, and this was especially the case for women. Among same-sex married spouses, 16.2% had children, as did 7.5% of partners in same-sex common-law couples. Again, women in same-sex married couples were more likely to have children (24.5%) than women in same-sex common-law unions (14.6%). Similarly, 9.0% of men in same-sex married couples had children, compared with only 1.7% of men in same-sex common-law couples.

In general, people in same-sex couples were younger than their counterparts in opposite-sex couples. For example, 24.5% of persons in same-sex couples were aged 34 and under, while only 3.8% were seniors aged 65 or older. In contrast, 18.1% of people in opposite-sex couples were aged 34 and under, while 16.0% were seniors.

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