Demographers sifting through Census data have found that Jacksonville has one of the highest numbers of same-sex parents and further to that, one analyst says the data shows child rearing among same-sex couples appears to be more prevalent in the southern states.
This is according to Gary Gates, a demographer at the University of California. He claims Census results demonstrate states like Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas are more likely to have same-sex couples raising children than areas such as New York which are often perceived as more welcoming to LGBTs. This isn’t the only notion Census data seems to challenge, either.
From The New York Times:
“We’re starting to see that the gay community is very diverse,” said Bob Witeck, chief executive of Witeck-Combs Communications, which helped market the census to gay people. “We’re not all rich white guys.”
Black or Latino gay couples are twice as likely as whites to be raising children, according to Mr. Gates, who used data from a Census Bureau sampling known as the American Community Survey. They are also more likely than their white counterparts to be struggling economically.
Married same-sex parents face legal hurdles. Florida does not recognize same-sex marriage, and its domestic partnership recognition, while growing, is an uneven patchwork, and still leaves many spouses uninsured.
Even when employers agree to cover domestic partners, those couples pay higher taxes, because without federal recognition of their status, health coverage is considered income and is taxable. Until recently, Florida was one of a handful of states that expressly prohibited adoption by gay couples.
Based on Census data, Mr. Gates estimates 32 percent of gay couples in Jacksonville are raising children. This is second only to San Antonio which has a rate of 34 percent. Why do southern states have a higher contingent of same-sex couples raising children then?
Mr. Gates muses that religious disapproval of same-sex relationships may come into play when he suggests that a large number of those parents had children in previous heterosexual relationships.
Gates also points out that Census data shows gay men who used to be in heterosexual relationships had children on average three years earlier than their heterosexual counterparts.
The reason for this trend is not offered, but one could guess that in an attempt to assimilate and live a heterosexual life, those individuals would marry and have children earlier.
However, the article notes that there is still a fear of not being accepted in these states, with one Jacksonville couple talking about the tough decisions they’ve taken due to one parent being a teacher at their child’s local school:
Cynthia, the mother of a talkative 9-year-old, can be herself at her daughter’s cheerleading practice, because it is far from their home. But at her daughter’s school, she tells no one that she is gay, because her partner, Monique, teaches there.
Their daughter, they said, ends up with a mixed message at school.
“We tell her, ‘Be honest, don’t lie, but keep this in the closet,’ ” said Monique, who asked that the couple’s last names not be used to protect her privacy at work, “It gets confusing for her.”
Yet the article also highlights an optimism that the strong presence of same-sex parents in communities previously thought of as anti-gay may in fact be helping to change attitudes and demonstrate that often have more in common with their neighbors than they do differences.
Based on data collected in 2009, the Census Bureau estimates that there are 581,000 same-sex couples in the United States. The Census does not count single LGBT people, so this data collection gives only a glimpse into a demographic who has thus far remained largely invisible in official records.