Crunching Same-Sex Marriage Data Required Special Computer Program

As part of this week’s Summer Guide, we looked at the first six months of same-sex marriage in Washington state. We wanted to know how many same-sex couples had tied the knot since it became legal. Apparently, we weren’t alone.

Thanks to a number of media requests, the state Department of Health on Thursday released data from Dec. 6, 2012 through March 31, 2013 showing just how many same-sex couples got hitched during that time. The grand total: 2,413.

According to Tim Church, a spokesperson for the Department of Health, crunching the numbers was tedious, and required a special computer program to be developed.

Church says that’s probably the main reason why just one of the county auditor’s offices we contacted for our Summer Guide story could provide an exact number of how many marriage licenses had been issued to same-sex couples; while marriage licenses have boxes for “bride,” “groom,” and “spouse,” and also optional boxes for indicating the sex of each marriage participant, compiling that data isn’t something that’s routinely done at the county level, and the counties wouldn’t have had the new computer program to do so.

Once a marriage is completed and the signed certificates are submitted to the Health Department by the marriage officiant, then the work of tabulating can begin.

Church says that given how many requests for same-sex marriage info his office received they decided to release the info now. Moving forward, he says same-sex marriage info will be released once a year, at the same time all the state’s marriage statistics are divulged.

“It wasn’t something that we could quickly and easily do. It required special attention,” says Church. “It’s not something that we would typically pull out.”

Church provided a spreadsheet of same-sex marriage data for every county from Dec. 6 through March 31. I’ve included it in this post; you can get a better look at it by clicking the tiny version above. Keep in mind, Church says there’s a good chance the Health Department hasn’t received records for all marriages during the reporting period, and the number of marriage licenses issued are different from the number of actual marriage certificates the state has on file. For one, once a couple is granted a marriage license it’s valid for 60 days. Secondly, once a marriage is completed the officiant has 30 days to submit it to the state.

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