California has the largest LGBTQ+ population in the US, with about 1 in 10 adults identifying as LGBTQ+.
Californians of all genders and sexual orientations are important members of families, schools, workplaces, and communities throughout the state. About 1 in 10 California adults identify as LGBTQ+, according to data from the US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.1Budget Center analysis of US Census Bureau, Household Pulse Survey data for July 2021 to June 2023. California has by far the largest LGBTQ+ population of any state in the US. Specifically, about 2.7 million adult residents identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.2Budget Center analysis of US Census Bureau, Household Pulse Survey data for July 2021 to June 2023. These data likely underestimate the true population of LGBTQ+ Californians since they do not allow for the clear identification of other non-cisgender, non-straight identities such as non-binary, two-spirit, pansexual, and asexual. See notes on the limitations of the Household Pulse Survey data in Kayla Kitson and Adriana Ramos-Yamamoto, State Leaders Should Prioritize LGBTQ+ Californians’ Mental Health (California Budget & Policy Center, May 2022).
Families that include LGBTQ+ individuals live in every region of the state. Around 46,000 California children under age 18 lived with same-sex parents in 2021, according to Census Bureau American Community Survey data.3Budget Center analysis of US Census Bureau, American Community Survey public-use microdata downloaded from IPUMS USA (University of Minnesota, www.ipums.org). Additionally, California is home to about 49,000 youth ages 13 to 17 who identify as transgender, according to estimates from the UCLA Williams Institute.4Jody Herman, Andrew Flores, and Kathryn O’Neill, How Many Adults and Youth Identify as Transgender in the United States? (UCLA Williams Institute, June 2022).
LGBTQ+ community activists in California and throughout the US have been key leaders driving progress in multiple areas of public concern. Activists’ strategies to push for equal rights to marriage for gay and lesbian couples have been held up as a model for advancing civil rights struggles.5Molly Ball, “What Other Activists Can Learn From the Fight for Gay Marriage,” The Atlantic (July 14, 2015); John Kowal, The Improbable Victory of Marriage Equality (Brennan Center for Justice, September 29, 2015); Josh Zeitz, “The Making of the Marriage Equality Revolution,” Politico Magazine (April 28, 2015).
In the health arena, advocacy campaigns by HIV/AIDS activists from LGBTQ+ communities directly led the federal government to establish accelerated approval processes for life-threatening diseases without effective treatments. which made possible the rapid review and approval of newly developed vaccines and drugs during the COVID-19 pandemic.6Lillian Brown, Matthew Spinelli, and Monica Gandhi, “The Interplay Between HIV and COVID-19: Summary of the Data and Responses to Date,” Current Opinion in HIV and AIDS 16, no. 1 (January 2021): 63-73; Anthony Fauci, “Victories Against AIDS Have Lessons for COVID-19,” Nature 600, no. 9 (November 2021).
LGBTQ+ Californians make up a substantial share of the state’s population and play important roles in families and communities. Policymakers should pay attention to the needs of LGBTQ+ Californians. Specifically, they should consider the impact of public policies on LGBTQ+ individuals and their families and communities.