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Study: Same-Sex Couples Migrating to the Heartland

Study: Same-Sex Couples Migrating to the Heartland

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The Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, released a report Monday documenting what it called "a gay demographic explosion" in some of the country's reddest of regions. Using recently released data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, the analyses show that the number of same-sex couples in the United States has quadrupled since 1990, growing at a rate 21 times that of the population. But increases have been the most dramatic in the Midwest, Mountain, and Southern states.

The Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, released a report Monday documenting what it called "a gay demographic explosion" in some of the country's reddest of regions. Using recently released data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, the analyses show that the number of same-sex couples in the United States has quadrupled since 1990, growing at a rate 21 times that of the population. But 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."

Conservative regions where George H.W. Bush's support in the 1992 presidential election exceeded his national vote average all had above-average increases in same-sex couples since 1990. Conversely, regions where Bill Clinton's support was above his national vote average all had increases of same-sex couples below the national average.

The Williams Institute study also found that state recognition of same-sex couples was inversely related to increases in the number of same-sex couples reporting their relationship. From 2000 to 2006, states that created formal recognition of same-sex couples had below-average increases, while states that prohibited marriage between two people of the same sex experienced above-average increases in same-sex couples.

Utah typifies this demographic pattern. In rankings of states by their concentration of same-sex couples, the study finds that Utah is the biggest mover, from a ranking of 38th in 1990 to 14th in 2006.

Gates noted that the study could provide clues to the U.S. political picture for the 2008 elections. "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," he said. "If so, keep an eye on Utah. 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."

Other findings from the study include:

-East south-central states of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee saw a combined increase in same-sex couples of 863% from 1990 to 2006

-Mountain states of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Montana, Utah, Nevada, and Idaho had an increase of 698%

-Same-sex couple increases were 55 times larger than population increases in the upper Midwest (Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin)

-Three cities (among the 50 largest) showed decreases in same-sex couples from 2000 to 2006: Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Detroit. In all three cases the cities lost same-sex couples while surrounding counties showed large gains. (The Advocate)

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