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Study finds gay demographic ‘explosion’
Southern states saw the largest increases in couples

Compiled by Q-Notes staff
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — The Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at the UCLA School of Law released a report in early November documenting a gay demographic explosion in some of the country’s most politically and socially conservative regions.

The study examines recently released data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). The study shows that the number of same-sex couples in the U.S. has quadrupled since 1990, growing at a rate 21 times that of increases in the general population. Increases have been the most dramatic in the midwest, mountain and southern states.

“Clearly, more same-sex couples are willing to openly identify themselves as such on government surveys,” said Gary Gates, Senior Research Fellow at the Williams Institute and author of the study. “A combination of growing social acceptance and migration to the South and West means that same-sex couples are becoming increasingly visible in the most politically and socially conservative parts of the country.”

By the numbers
Southern states saw the largest increases in the number of same-sex couples. The states of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee saw a combined increase in same-sex couples of 863 percent from 1990 to 2006. (This is in line with the findings of an Oct. 2006 report that North Carolina experienced a 21 percent increase in same-sex couples from 2000 to 2005, while South Carolina saw a 39 percent increase in the same period.)

The mountain states of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Montana, Utah, Nevada and Idaho had an increase of 698 percent. Same-sex couple increases were 55 times larger than increases in the general population in the upper midwest (Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin).

States with formal recognition of same-sex relationships had below-average increases while states that prohibited marriage equality experienced above-average increases in same-sex couples. States that brought voter referendums about marriage equality experienced even higher increases.

“The fact that same-sex couples are becoming more visible in areas where legal recognitions are scarce shows that campaigns against gay rights might have a limited shelf life,” said Gates. “As gay and lesbian people come out, we know that their neighbors and friends become more supportive of their rights.”

Utah had the biggest change. It moved from a ranking of 38th for concentration of same-sex couples in 1990 to 14th in 2006.

Political implications
Are the increases in same-sex couples in some of the most conservative areas of the country a possible predictor for politics in 2008? Gates thinks so.

“It may very well be that these changes in the number of same-sex couples offer a ‘leading indicator’ to assess which historically conservative states are destined to become more ‘purple’ in upcoming elections,” Gates said.

“If so, keep an eye on Utah,” he added. “Salt Lake City has passed legislation to formally recognize same-sex couples and Brigham Young University no longer considers being gay to be a violation of its honor code. Perhaps most notable, the state now has three openly gay officials in its state legislature. That’s one more than in the U.S. Congress.”

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