By Robin Kane, HRC Family Project, Nov. 15, 2006
The reported number of same-sex couples in the United States increased by 30 percent over five years and same-sex couples are found in every congressional district in the country, according to a new report issued by the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy. The reported number of couples rose from 600,000 in 2000 to nearly 770,000 in 2005.
The study examined new data from the American Community Survey, part of the U.S. Census Bureau, which includes estimates of the gay, lesbian and bisexual community in states, metropolitan areas and congressional districts. (The survey does not question or address gender identity or expression.)
The largest percentage increase in same-sex couples between 2000 and 2005 occurred throughout the Midwest. Eight of the 10 states with the largest increases are in the Midwest:
·Wisconsin (81 percent)
·Minnesota (76 percent)
·Nebraska (71 percent)
·Kansas (68 percent)
·Ohio (62 percent)
·Iowa (58 percent)
·Missouri (56 percent)
·Indiana (54 percent)
Colorado and New Hampshire are also ranked in the top 10 states in percentage growth.
Six of the eight states that faced November 2006 ballot measures aiming to ban marriage for same-sex couples experienced increases in the number of resident same-sex couples above the 30 percent national average. Those states are Arizona, Colorado, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin.
The number of male same-sex couples in the United States increased by 37 percent between 2000 and 2005. The number of female same-sex couples increased by 24 percent.
An estimated 8.8 million gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals live in the United States.
States with the largest percentage of gay, lesbian and bisexual adults in the population are:
·District of Columbia* (8.1 percent)
·New Hampshire (6.6 percent)
·Washington (5.7 percent)
·Massachusetts (5.7 percent)
·Maine (5.2 percent)
·California (5.2 percent)
·Colorado (5.1 percent)
·Vermont (5.1 percent)
·New Mexico (4.9 percent)
·Minnesota (4.7 percent)
*The district is counted as a state in the context of Census data.
Metropolitan areas with the largest percentage of gay, lesbian and bisexual adults are:
·San Francisco/Oakland/Fremont, Calif. (8.2 percent)
·Seattle/Tacoma/Bellevue, Wash. (6.5 percent)
·Boston/Cambridge/Quincy, Mass. (6.2 percent)
·Portland/Vancouver/Beaverton, Ore. (6.1 percent)
·Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Fla. (5.9 percent)
·Austin/Round Rock, Texas (5.9 percent)
·Denver/Aurora, Colo. (5.8 percent)
·Minneapolis/St. Paul/Bloomington, Minn. (5.7 percent)
·Orlando/Kissimmee, Fla. (5.7 percent)
·Hartford/West Hartford/East Hartford, Conn. (5.6 percent)
Gary J. Gates, senior research fellow at the Williams Institute and author of the report, said he was "intrigued" but not surprised by the gains in the Midwest.
Gates told the Human Rights Campaign that the increase "supports my long-held suspicion that underreporting of same-sex couples is not uniform across the country." Gates believes that areas that are not as welcoming to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community "have a larger closet." So while the Midwest previously had a large closet, Gates said, "An increasing amount of acceptance to GLBT people in general and same-sex couples in particular has seeped into the Heartland," with more people willing to acknowledge their relationships in surveys.
At the same time, areas that faced ballot measures banning marriage for same-sex couples experienced an increase in media attention to GLBT issues and same-sex couples. Gates said he believes this attention - which was sometimes positive, sometimes negative - encouraged more same-sex couples to step forward and be counted.
"Now some analysts are suggesting that the ballot initiative in Virginia banning same-sex marriage led to Senator Allen's defeat," Gates said. Interestingly, he said, "Hostile ballot initiatives coupled with more acceptance creates a space that allows people to be more open and vocal."
Media outlets from the Midwest that covered the release of the report often quoted members of the local GLBT community. They echoed Gates' belief that ballot measures motivated some people to step forward, come out and speak out.
Up next for the Williams Institute is an examination of foster parenting and adoption in the GLBT community, including the numbers involved and economic costs of bans against GLBT foster or adoptive parenting. Gates says that report will be issued soon in partnership with the Urban Institute.
Download the Report: Same-sex Couples and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Population: New Estimates from the American Community Survey
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