Gay Couples in Utah Increase 66 Percent

According to research by the Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at UCLA, Utah has seen a 66 percent increase in the number of same-sex relationships in just the past year. The institute says that Utah's same-sex couple hve increased 16-fold since 1990.

"Perhaps most striking is the movement of Utah from a ranking of 38th in 1990 to 14th in 2004-2006,"according to the report. 

ImageThe Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at UCLA released a report Monday documenting what it called "a gay demographic explosion" in some of the country's reddest of regions.

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS), the analyses show that the number of same-sex couples in the United States has quadrupled since 1990 — a number about 21 times higher than increase of the population as a whole.

The biggest growth came in regions the study termed "Southern," "Midwest" and "Mountain."

Researchers used voting history to typify each region's level of acceptance. Places where George Bush Senior's support was higher than the national average in the 1992 presidential election were deemed "conservative, while those places where Bill Clinton's support was above his national vote average in 1992 were deemed socially liberal.

The conservative regions all showed above-average growth in the numbers of same-sex couples since 1990, while the liberal regions all showed below-average growth.

Similarly, state recognition of same-sex unions was found to be inversely related to the rate of migration.

States that legislated same-sex civil unions or marriage between 2000 and 2006 showed a below-average increase (23 percent, compared to the national rate of 31 percent).

States where same-sex marriage was prohibited during those years experienced an above-average (37 percent) increase — with states where marriage bans were enacted via voter referendum showing the highest increase of all (41 percent).

Reasons for the increase, according to the study, were greater acceptance of LGBT couples nationwide, more LGBT people choosing to couple and cohabit, and more couples moving to the suburbs, in migration patterns that differ from the nation as a whole.

"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, in a statement.

"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."

Gates believes his study could contain clues to 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 BYU 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."

The study found that Utah is the biggest-moving state, leaping from 38th place for numbers of same-sex couples in 1990 to 14th place in 2006.

Supporting the possibility of same-sex couples moving to the suburbs, three of the country's 50 largest cities 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.

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