Large numbers of same-sex parents are raising kids in bible belt like Utah, Texas, and Virginia — a trio not known for their kindness to the broader LGBT population.
This year has been a great one for marriage rights for same-sex couples, with the demise of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act and victories in states including Minnesota, Rhode Island, and California. A recent infographic put out by the Williams Institute, a think tank at the University of California, Los Angeles, shows that large percentages of same-sex couples raising families live in states hostile to LGBT parents — states such as Utah, Virginia and Texas.
A recent Williams Institute press release points out many of the metropolitan areas with the highest percentages of families led by same-sex couples that ban same-sex marriage. Many of those same states also severely limit the rights of LGBT parents.
The Williams Institute defines these LGBT families according to the following statistics:
- An estimated 37% of LGBT-identified adults have had a child at some time in their lives;
- An estimated 3 million LGBT Americans have had a child and as many as 6 million American children and adults have an LGBT parent;
- Among those under age 50 who are living alone or with a spouse or partner, nearly half of LGBT women (48%) are raising a child under age 18 along with a fifth of LGBT men (20%).
So why are these same-sex couples raising kids in such hostile places like Salt Lake City, and Virginia Beach? Gary Gates, a Williams Distinguished Scholar at the institute and an expert on the demography of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender population, offers that while demographers don’t know a lot about why same-sex couples with children live where they do, there is evidence that LGBT people who have children tend to have their first child at a younger age than their non-LGBT counterparts, most often with a different sex partner.
Gates adds - “This pattern is more common in socially conservative areas where lesbians and gay men face higher levels of social stigma and probably come out later in life (meaning they are more likely to have different-sex relationships earlier in life),” Gates speculates - “This group tends to have lower levels of educational attainment and higher levels of economic disadvantage, which limits their mobility. But even if it didn’t, they might be living where they are simply to be closer to family and more child-friendly communities. Areas with high concentrations of LGBT parents tend to be more urban and more expensive.“
In a research paper published earlier this year, Gates uncovered compelling statistics about the struggling portions of the LGBT parent population raising kids:
- Single LGBT adults raising children are three times more likely than comparable non-LGBT individuals to report household incomes near the poverty threshold;
- Married or partnered LGBT individuals living in two-adult households with children are twice as likely as comparable non-LGBT individuals to report household incomes near the poverty threshold;
- The median annual household income of same-sex couples with children under age 18 in the home is lower than that of comparable different-sex couples ($63,900 versus $74,000, respectively).
This begs the question – Where is the highest concentration points of where these families are living? According to a recent infographic put out by the Human Rights Campaign, the states of Utah and Mississippi have bans on adoption by same-sex couples and yet child-rearing, according to Gates, is highest in the South, Mountain West. and Midwest. Salt Lake City has the highest percentage of same-sex couples raising children in the United States.
There are some further interesting findings when one compares the HRC and Williams Institute infographics. For instance, state courts in Michigan, have ruled that unmarried individuals may not jointly petition to adopt. And yet 22 percent of same-sex couples in the city of Detroit are raising kids. There are also Virginia, Texas, and Tennessee, where, according to HRC, "It is unclear whether a same-sex couple would be permitted to file a joint petition to adopt." Tell that to the 24 percent of same-sex couples raising kids in Virginia Beach, or the 22 percent of such couples with kids in San Antonio and Memphis.
Regardless of a definitive “why,” it’s clear that LGBT parenting is becoming more widespread irrespective of the slower rates of acceptance of same-sex marriages.