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Russian LGBTQ asylum seekers stranded in Guam

Lesbian, ex-wife arrived in U.S. territory in 2015

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Egor in Guam (Courtesy photo)

HAGATNA, Guam — Egor is a gay man who grew up in a village near Russia’s Ural Mountains.

Military service in Russia is compulsory, and Egor was studying in the city of Nizhny Novgorod in 2018 when recruiters told him to enlist. Egor, who asked the Blade not to publish his last name, said officials sent him to a mental hospital after he failed a psychological exam.

“They realized I was gay because I dyed my hair, I wear makeup and stuff like that, plus I have earrings,” said Egor.

Egor told the Blade he did not go to the hospital, and the military began to look for him after he fled the city. Egor flew to Guam in May 2019 and asked for asylum at the island’s Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport.

“I knew I could go here and apply for asylum at the international airport in Guam,” Egor told the Blade during a telephone interview from Guam. “That’s what I did pretty much.”

Guam is a U.S. territory in the western Pacific Ocean that is at the southern end of the Mariana Islands.

Egor is one of the upwards of 300 Russian asylum seekers in Guam. They cannot leave the island until their cases are decided.

Russian citizens until 2020 were able to travel to Guam without a visa. Egor and other Russian LGBTQ asylum seekers with whom the Blade has spoken took advantage of this visa-free travel to flee their homeland.

Marina, who also asked the Blade not to publish her last name, and her then-girlfriend, Julia Mavrodieva, arrived in Guam on Nov. 21, 2015, with their child.

Marina on March 24 told the Blade during a telephone interview that harassment and threats prompted her and Mavrodieva to leave their home in Ufa near the Ural Mountains. Marina said she and Mavrodieva decided to flee the country over concerns that officials would take their child away from them because they are lesbians.

“LGBT is not good there and also it’s the law in Russia that I cannot show my daughter our relationship,” said Marina. “If the government knows that I have an LGBT family, like two women and a child, they can take my daughter away.”

Marina fled Russia with her child and now ex-wife in 2015. (Courtesy photo)

Mavrodieva echoed Marina in a separate telephone interview.

“That’s when we thought if we’re not going to leave now, they’re just going to take the child away for sure,” said Mavrodieva. “It’s just a matter of time when they decide to do this.”

Mavrodieva and Marina applied for asylum as a family after they legally married in Guam on Dec. 4, 2015.

The women worked with a Russian-speaking paralegal in California who helped them with their Form I-589, a formal application for asylum.  Mavrodieva said they did not speak with him for seven months, but he told them in July 2016 that U.S. Customs and Immigration Services had accepted and processed it.

The women divorced in July 2019. Marina and her child had their asylum interview a month later, but Mavrodieva is still awaiting hers because she had to file her own asylum application after the divorce.

Julia Mavrodieva (Courtesy photo)

Sergey and Ivan are a gay couple from Yakutsk in Siberia.

Ivan told the Blade on March 23 during a telephone interview that Sergey was attacked in 2011 “because he had earrings.” Ivan said he and Sergey decided to move to St. Petersburg “because we thought it was a different place, but it turned out to be pretty much the same experience.”

Ivan said a friend was beaten at a subway station after they attended an event at a gay nightclub. Sergey told the Blade he was harassed at work after he and Ivan moved to Moscow.

“They kind of made me come out as gay,” he said, speaking through a friend who interpreted for him and Ivan. “It wasn’t voluntary.”

The couple arrived in Guam in April 2017.

Ivan and Sergey said Immigration Equality told them to apply for asylum in the U.S. by mail, and they did so 45 days after they arrived in Guam. The couple married on the island in December 2017, and soon began to receive threats because Russian media reported on their wedding.

“People in Russia basically learned about this,” said Ivan. “It got public and I started getting threats and stuff. It wasn’t very nice.”

Ivan and Sergey said a USCIS asylum officer in California interviewed them in August 2019.

“Our status is still pending,” said Ivan. “We haven’t received the decision of our application.”

From left: Sergey and Ivan in Guam (Courtesy photo)

Victoria Palmer, a USCIS spokesperson, in an email to the Blade on March 30 declined to comment on specific asylum cases in Guam “due to privacy restrictions.”

Palmer noted “USCIS asylum officers have been unable to travel to Guam to conduct interviews of those who have applied for affirmative asylum” because of “pandemic-related travel restrictions.”

“USCIS asylum officers also conduct credible fear screenings for individuals subject to an expedited removal order who wish to apply for asylum, fear persecution or torture or fear returning to their home country,” Palmer told the Blade. “Because credible fear interviews may be conducted by telephone, the Los Angeles Asylum Office has forged an arrangement with the USCIS Guam Field Office to assist asylum officers conduct credible fear interviews telephonically. As currently planned, this effort is fairly close to being completed. Individuals found to have a credible fear of persecution then go before an immigration judge who has the authority to grant them any form of protection for which they qualify.”

Palmer referred the Blade to U.S. Customs and Border Protection in response to questions about travel restrictions for asylum seekers in Guam. The agency has yet to respond to a request for comment.

Joshua Tenorio, Guam’s openly gay lieutenant governor, noted to the Blade during a March 9 telephone interview that travelers must clear CBP on the island before they can fly to Hawaii, South Korea or Japan in order to travel to the mainland U.S.

“What they’re saying is had they been in any of the states, they would be able to file their asylum papers and be able to travel within the United States,” Tenorio told the Blade. “But because they did it in Guam, they are not being able to do that because they couldn’t clear the immigration check, even though you’re not clearing immigration.”

“It’s a strange reality for us because we are a territory,” he added.

Guam Lt. Gov. Joshua Tenorio (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

‘You’re in limbo’

Egor is the only asylum seeker with whom the Blade spoke who was detained upon arrival in Guam.

He said he spent five days in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody before his release on a $5,000 bond. Egor said a prisoner at the facility where he was held assaulted him.

Egor received his work authorization in June 2020. The other asylum seekers with whom the Blade has spoken say they are also able to legally work in Guam as they await the outcome of their cases.

Mavrodieva owns a construction company where Marina currently works. Ivan and Sergey have begun a woodworking and pet care business.

“I like Guam and stuff, but the thing is you’re in limbo,” Mavrodieva told the Blade. “It’s been years.”

Some of the Russian asylum seekers in Guam earlier this year staged a hunger strike in front of the official seat of the island’s government to highlight their plight.

Tenorio on March 12 met with Mavrodieva, Marina, Egor, Ivan, Sergey and other Russian LGBTQ asylum seekers. Melissa Taitano, board chair of Equality Guam, an LGBTQ rights group on the island, also attended the meeting.

“It was painful to hear why they left Russia and the kind of injustices and indignities and beatings, really, physical beatings, that they underwent and then to find out that they were in Guam and they were a part of community, even as refugees,” Tatiano told the Blade on April 6 during a telephone interview.

“Our reaction was to want to help,” she added.

Marina works for her ex-wife’s construction company in Guam. (Courtesy photo)

Tatiano — a professor at the University of Guam who has a background in archival studies, indigenous issues and cultural memory — said she decided to document the asylum seekers’ stories in a short film that is slated for release in early June. Tenorio’s office is also working to provide them with legal assistance in an attempt to expedite their cases.

“After I met with them, I really, really have just been thinking so much about them,” Tenorio told the Blade. “I’m just putting myself in their shoes and think to myself, gosh, how can you just abruptly leave, start all over.”

‘We need to travel somewhere’

Ivan, Sergey, Mavrodieva and Marina all told the Blade they would consider staying in Guam if they were to win their asylum cases.

“Guam is a good island,” said Marina. “I have a job and I have an apartment and everything. I already know Guam. I know everything here, but I want to travel of course.”

Marina and Mavrodieva said their child has come out as transgender and has begun to transition. Marina told the Blade one of the reasons she wants to be able to leave Guam is because there is no doctor on the island who performs sex-reassignment surgery.

“We need to travel somewhere: The U.S., Thailand or somewhere,” she said.

Ivan told the Blade that “life here is safer than in Russia, but there is trouble in terms that we cannot plan anything, like a job or anything at all.” Ivan said he and Sergey would like to visit LGBTQ-friendly cities in the mainland U.S. once they are able.

“We just want to be free and to have this ability to move freely within the United States,” said Ivan.

Egor admitted he doesn’t know what he will do if the U.S. grants him asylum.

“I can’t really think about that,” he said. “It’s been so long for me.”

Egor told the Blade he suffers from depression. He also said he is “afraid to go back to Russia.”

“This immigration is just like hanging over my head just like an axe,” said Egor. “I don’t know … if I get rejected for asylum I’ll probably commit suicide at this point. I don’t really know, but I’m really hopeful that the judge will understand my situation better and I hope America is the right place that I went to, right, in terms of seeking help.”

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State Department

Blinken: PEPFAR shows ‘what American diplomacy can do’

Secretary of state spoke at World AIDS Day event in D.C. on Friday

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at a World AIDS Day event at the Hay-Adams Hotel in D.C. on Dec. 2, 2022. (Screen capture via U.S. Department of State YouTube)

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday noted the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has saved more than 25 million lives since its launch in 2003.

Blinken, who spoke at the Business Council for International Understanding’s World AIDS Day event at the Hay-Adams Hotel in D.C., said the more than $100 billion the U.S. has earmarked for PEPFAR over the last two decades has funded 70,000 new community health clinics, 3,000 new laboratories and the hiring of 340,000 health care workers.

“Entire public health systems formed, with over a dozen countries which have either reached their HIV-treatment goals or managed control of the virus altogether,” said Blinken.

Then-President George W. Bush in 2003 signed legislation that created PEPFAR. California Democrat Barbara Lee, members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief White House medical advisor who is retiring at the end of this month, are among those who played a key role in PEPFAR’s creation.

“PEPFAR has benefitted from bipartisan support, as we’ve heard, across four presidencies, across ten Congresses,” said Blinken. “It’s resulted in an investment of more than $100 billion to the global HIV/AIDS response. This is the largest commitment by one country ever to address a single disease.”

Lee and Fauci were among those who attended the event alongside U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator John Nkengasong; Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine; Dr. Deborah Birx, the former White House Coronavirus Response Director, and HIV and Hepatitis Policy Institute Executive Director Carl Schmid.

Blinken in his speech noted “the systems put in place by PEPFAR have become an integral part of the health security architecture of countries around the world.”

Blinken also said PEPFAR has bolstered responses to COVID-19, Ebola and the avian flu.

“We are continuing to build on PEPFAR’s many successes to create a stronger global health security architecture to prevent, to detect, to respond to future health emergencies. Doctor Fauci, you once said that PEPFAR ‘shows what the goodwill of a nation can do,’ and you were right,” said Blinken. “PEPFAR also shows us what American diplomacy can do: Bring together governments, bring together the public and private sectors, communities to tackle challenges that none of us can actually effectively deal with alone and that creates and has created a healthier, safer and ultimately more secure world.” 

Five-year PEPFAR strategy to target LGBTQ+ people

Blinken acknowledged there is still “very serious work still required for us to end the global HIV health epidemic by 2030,” noting HIV/AIDS continues to disproportionately impact LGBTQ+ and intersex people and other marginalized groups.

“Too many countries still have fragile and insufficiently resourced public health systems, which makes it difficult to offer services beyond HIV/AIDS treatments, and that undercuts our capacity to respond to emerging threats,” he said.

Blinken noted the U.S. on Thursday announced a new PEPFAR strategy that will help “fill those gaps” over the next five years. It includes the following:

• Targeted programming to help reduce inequalities among LGBTQ+ and intersex people, women and girls and other marginalized groups

• Partnerships with local organizations to help reach “hard-to-reach” communities.

• Economic development and increased access to financial markets to allow countries to manufacture their own antiretroviral drugs, tests and personal protective gear to give them “the capacity to meet their own challenges so that they’re not dependent on anyone else.”

“This latest PEPFAR strategy will keep making advancements like that possible so that millions more people can live healthy lives and live lives to their full potential,” said Blinken. 

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Minnesota

Minneapolis felon charged in Gay Bar brandishing incident

According to U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger, Conell Walter Harris, 29 has been charged with felony illegal possession of a firearm

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Booking Photo: Conell Walter Harris/Hennepin County Jail

MINNEAPOLIS – A Minneapolis resident is facing federal charges for illegal possession of a firearm during a criminal brandishing, uttering threats and homophobic slurs at a popular LGBTQ+ bar in the downtown area of the city.

According to U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger, Conell Walter Harris, 29 has been charged with felony illegal possession of a firearm.

In court documents filed in Hennepin County, on November 28, 2022, Minneapolis Police officers responded to a call that a person at 19 Bar, located near downtown Minneapolis, had pulled out a gun after being asked to leave.

When officers arrived, several people pointed at a man, who was later identified as Conell Walter Harris, 29.  Harris resisted arrest and tried to reach into the pocket of his hooded sweatshirt. Officers recovered a stolen .45 caliber Glock model 30 pistol from Harris’ pocket. Officers spoke to bar employees and customers and learned that Harris had become upset after an employee asked to see his identification, which Harris refused to show.

The employee then asked Harris to leave the bar. Harris became combative and pulled out a pistol. An employee attempted to deescalate the situation but Harris became more aggressive and made multiple threatening statements. Harris then left for a short time but returned to the bar before law enforcement arrived.

Screenshot/YouTube KARE 11

Minneapolis NBC affiliate KARE 11 reported:

The complaint and affidavit outline the events that allegedly took place at Minneapolis’ 19 Bar the night of Nov. 28, claiming officers first responded to the bar around 11 p.m. on reports of a person with a gun.

When officers arrived, prosecutors say, bar patrons identified Harris. The complaint says Harris “resisted arrest and kept reaching into his hoodie pocket,” leading police to recover a .45-caliber Glock semi-automatic handgun.

Court documents allege that based on eyewitness accounts, police were informed that Harris was “acting strangely” when he entered the bar and became upset when an employee asked to see his ID. A 19 Bar bartender then asked Harris to leave, according to the complaint, and Harris refused, telling the bartender, “I ain’t going nowhere,” while pulling out the firearm.

Prosecutors say Harris then began yelling profanities and slurs at the bartender before leaving for a short time and then returning.

When Harris later reentered the bar, court documents allege he began playing pool until officers arrived.

According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Harris is charged in a criminal complaint with felon in possession of a firearm. He made his initial appearance today in U.S. District Court before Magistrate Judge Tony N. Leung. Harris was ordered to remain in custody pending a formal detention hearing scheduled for December 5, 2022. 

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the Minneapolis Police Department.

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Congress

Hakeem Jeffries makes history as new leader of House Democrats

Reps. Katherine Clark & Rep. Pete Aguilar become the new House Democratic Whip & House Democratic Caucus Chair

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New Democratic leadership team, Reps. Katherine Clark (Mass.), Hakeem Jeffries (D-Ny.) and Pete Aguilar (Calif.) (Photo Credit: Office of Rep. Hakeem Jeffries)

WASHINGTON – With his election on Wednesday to take over as House Democratic minority leader next year, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Ny.) became the first ever Black lawmaker from either party who will serve in that role in either of the two chambers of Congress.

House Democrats also chose, for the second and third-highest ranking positions, Reps. Katherine Clark (Mass.) and Pete Aguilar (Caif.). All ran unopposed and rather than by formal ballots were elected by voice vote for unanimous consent.

The moves signaled broad consensus among House Democrats in their decision to send the new slate of lawmakers, young and diverse with some progressive bona fides, to serve in the party’s senior leadership positions.

The three lawmakers are all members of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus and longtime allies of the community. Jeffries, as chair of the House Democratic Caucus, introduced the Respect for Marriage Act in the House this summer.

The Caucus declined to comment on the House Democratic leadership elections.

When Aguilar succeeds Jeffries in that role next year, it will be the highest-ranking position in House leadership ever held by a Latino member. Clark, meanwhile, will become the second woman to serve as Democratic House Whip after Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the current House Speaker.

Pelosi announced on Nov. 18 her plans to step down from House Democratic leadership after the next Congress is seated. She made history in 2001 as the first woman elected to the second highest-ranking position in the chamber, and then again in 2007 when she took the top slot, becoming the first woman Speaker of the House.

Following her announcement, Pelosi was celebrated for her many legislative accomplishments at the top of her party’s caucus, where she served for two decades under four presidents. A Washington Post column called Pelosi the “best speaker in US. history.”

Considering that Pelosi also presided over some of the biggest legislative milestones in the modern LGBTQ rights movement, such as the 2011 repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Jeffries has a high bar to clear when he’s handed the torch in January.

Jeffries is distinguished for his vocal support of the LGBTQ community

In addition to his leadership on the Respect for Marriage Act, Jeffries has been a major advocate in Congress for other pro-LGBTQ pieces of legislation like the Equality Act and, in 2014, the Hate Crime Reporting Act.

Jeffries has been a vocal champion of measures to make the U.S. Capitol more welcoming for transgender and gender nonconforming people – such as by calling for single-occupancy gender-neutral restrooms on the Hill and rules that would adopt gender-neutral language in the House.

He has also spoken out forcefully against anti-LGBTQ hate from some members of the House Republican caucus, such as the dangerous rhetoric from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), who has repeatedly tried to link queer people to child sexual abuse.

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Congress

Rep. Raul Ruiz calls for ending IRS rule for same-sex couples 

The letter comes after the Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act, which requires the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage

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Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36) meeting constituents (Photo Credit: Office of Congressman Ruiz)

WASHINGTON – In a letter sent to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Thursday, Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36) led over 50 members of Congress in calling for the IRS to reverse current regulations that prevent some same-sex couples from receiving survivor benefits. 

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act allows qualified retirement plans to establish a one-year marriage duration requirement for survivor’s benefits, and in 2014 the IRS issued guidance clarifying that these rules apply equally to same-sex couples — meaning if a same-sex couple was not married for the required length of time prior to one spouse’s death, the surviving spouse would not qualify for pension survivor benefits.  

However, in many cases, couples were not legally allowed to be married for long enough to meet that requirement, since unconstitutional laws barring same-sex couples from marriage remained in effect until 2015. For same-sex survivors for whom marriage equality came too late, the one-year marriage duration requirement poses a total bar to access their loved one’s benefits.

“It is imperative that the IRS clarify that a qualified retirement plan will be disqualified if it fails to provide these same-sex survivors barred from marrying with an equal path to survivor’s benefits despite their having been unable to meet the one-year marriage duration requirement before the employee’s death,” Dr. Ruiz and the members wrote. While plans would retain discretion regarding whether to have a marriage duration requirement at all, where they do so, such requirements should not be allowed to further penalize those same-sex survivors who already felt the sting of discrimination while their loved ones were still alive.”  

The letter comes after the U.S. Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act, which requires the federal government to recognize a marriage between two individuals if the marriage was valid in the state where it was performed. The legislation also safeguards against the denial of any benefit, right, or status of an otherwise eligible person or entity – including tax-exempt status, tax treatment, grants, contracts, agreements, guarantees, educational funding, loans, scholarships, licenses, certifications, accreditations, claims, or defenses – provided that the benefit, right, or status does not arise from a marriage. 

Dr. Ruiz’s letter was inspired by a Palm Springs constituent who has faced roadblocks from receiving his survivor benefits for years due to the IRS policy. 

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District of Columbia

Portrait of Matthew Shepard dedicated at National Cathedral

“It’s amazing how similar & what a great job [the artist] has done to make it look like and showing the essence of Matt,” said Dennis Shepard

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Judy and Dennis Shepard stand in front of a portrait of their son, Matthew. Matthew Shepard was honored at a ceremony on Dec. 1, at Washington National Cathedral. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

WASHINGTON – Matthew Shepard, the gay University of Wyoming student who was murdered in a 1998 anti-gay hate crime while tied to a fence outside Laramie, Wyo., will be honored at a ceremony on Thursday, Dec. 1, at Washington National Cathedral dedicating a newly commissioned portrait of Shepard.

Officials at the cathedral said the portrait by artist Kelly Latimore and commissioned by LGBTQ members of the Cathedral staff, is the only artistic image of Matthew Shepard created in collaboration with Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, who were present during the ceremony.

Matthew Shepard’s ashes were interred at the Washington National Cathedral in 2018, 20 years after his death. The Cathedral announced in a statement this week that the Dec. 1 dedication of the Shepard portrait would also take place on what would have been Shepard’s 46th birthday.

A Thanksgiving and Celebration of Matthew Shepard service was held on October 26, 2018 at the Washington National Cathedral. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

“The horrific murders at Club Q in Colorado Springs are a tragic reminder that our LGBTQ friends and family continue to be targeted for who they love, and Matthew Shepard’s legacy reminds us of the urgency to confront bigotry and embrace people of all backgrounds, gender identities and sexual orientations,” said The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral, in a statement.

Events surrounding the portrait dedication began with a 7 a.m. online prayer service “to celebrate and recall Matthew Shepard’s life,” the statement released by the Cathedral says. The service was led by Right Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay priest to be consecrated as a bishop in the Episcopal Church.

The Cathedral next hosted a preview of the portrait for the news media at 10:30 a.m., where Dennis and Judy Shepard talked about the portrait and their son’s life and the impact his death had on the nation’s understanding of hate crimes.

“It’s amazing how similar and what a great job that Kelly [Latimore] has done to make it look like Matt and showing the essence of Matt,” Dennis Shepard told the Washington Blade while viewing the portrait in the Cathedral’s St. Joseph’s Chapel, where the portrait was on display.

Artist Latimore, who also spoke to reporters during the morning briefing at the chapel, said he was moved in his discussions with Judy and Dennis Shepard while getting ready to begin work on the painting by copies of dozens of letters they sent him that had been sent to the Shepards by people across the country after their son’s death.

Latimore included written excerpts from dozens of those letters as the background to his portrait of Matthew Shepard, which can be seen and read when standing close to the portrait.

Artist Kelly Latimore (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

“Matthew will not be forgotten,” an excerpt from one of the letters on the portrait says.
Dennis and Judy Shepard created the Matthew Shepard Foundation shortly after Matthew’s death, which has been credited with playing a lead role in advocating for the passage by Congress in 2009 of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The measure was the first federal hate crime statute that expanded the coverage of the federal hate crimes law to include a victim’s sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class.

President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act on Oct. 22, 2009. (Washington Blade archive photo by Michael Key)

The Cathedral was to open its St. Joseph’s Chapel from 2-5 p.m. on Thursday to visitors where the Matthew Shepard portrait was on display. Dennis and Judy Shepard were scheduled to be present to greet visitors.

According to the statement released by the Cathedral, later in the evening at 7 p.m., the portrait was to be officially dedicated in a private service in the Cathedral’s crypt near the site where Shepard’s ashes were interred.

“A longtime supporter of the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the life of the church, the Cathedral considers LGBTQ equality one of the great civil rights issues of the 21st century,” the statement released by the Cathedral says.

One of the two men charged with Matthew Shepard’s murder, Russell Henderson, pleaded guilty to a murder charge in exchange for an agreement by prosecutors not to seek a death sentence. He was sentenced to life in prison.

The other man charged in the murder, Aaron McKinney, pleaded not guilty and went to trial, where he was convicted of murder by a jury. In a dramatic statement before the judge at the conclusion of the trial, Dennis Shepard announced and he and his wife had asked prosecutors and the judge to spare McKinney from being sentenced to death, something he said McKinney did not do while fatally striking his son in the head multiple times with the barrel of a gun after the two men tied him to a fence post in a remote field outside Laramie.

The judge sentenced McKinney to two consecutive life terms in prison without the possibility of parole.

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Federal Government

One million plus same-sex households in U.S., California has most

Data also revealed that roughly 710,000 of the same-sex couple households were married and about 500,000 were unmarried

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US Census Bureau Headquarters, Suitland, Maryland (Photo Credit: Photo by Hubert Dobson, U.S. Census Bureau)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Census Bureau last week released a report that detailed that there were about 1.2 million same-sex couple households in the United States in 2021. Data also revealed that roughly 710,000 of the same-sex couple households were married and about 500,000 were unmarried.

Since 2005 the number of same-sex households in the U.S. has steadily increased, with about 540,000 reported in 2008 and then in 2019, the last year the Census reported data, there were about 980,000 same-sex households in the country.

The data, based on American Community Survey (ACS), which shows estimates from 2005 through 2021, was not released in 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19 on ACS data collection.

Other highlights from the release:

  • The average age of householders in same-sex married couples (48.9 years) was lower than in opposite-sex married couples (52.8 years). But the average age of householders in same-sex unmarried couples (42.0 years) was higher than in opposite-sex unmarried couples (39.9 years).
  • The share of female-female and male-male couples with both partners employed did not differ significantly, though median household income in female same-sex couple households ($92,470) was lower than in male same-sex couple households ($116,800).
  • Both partners had at least a bachelor’s degree in a larger share of same-sex (29.6%) than opposite-sex (18.1%) unmarried couples.
  • A larger share of same-sex (31.6%) than opposite-sex (18.4%) married couples were interracial.
  • The District of Columbia (2.5%) had the highest percentage of same-sex couple households of any state or state equivalent. California has the most same-sex households at 163,964.
  • States with the highest number of same-sex households include Washington, D.C., Hawaii, Delaware, Oregon, California, Florida and New York, all of which include more than 1 percent of same-sex households in the total household population.

This is the second time the Census Bureau has released ACS estimates of same-sex couple households since revising the survey’s relationship to householder question to more accurately capture same-sex relationships.

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