Same-sex marriage laws sweep across states like a brushfire, sometimes leading and sometimes lagging LGBTQ migration. Or so it seems from this recent New York Times article by Claire Cain Miller and David Leonhardt, which analyzes data from Gallup surveys, compared to a map of same-sex marriage by the Human Rights Campaign. Among the surprises: Salt Lake City ekes past L.A. in rate of LGBT residents; San Jose and Pittsburgh have lower rates than the national Gallup-reported rate of 3.6% of adults identifying as LGBT. As is so often the case, transgender Americans are lumped in with non-heterosexuals as though all the issues in their decisions about a home community are the same, which of course is not so. But leaving that aside, this survey data has several surprises.
The difference between the “gayest” city (San Francisco, at 6.2% of the population) and the “least gay”, Birmingham at 2.6%, is a wider gulf than I might have expected. Gallup did not include data for rural areas, which might have been even more dramatically lower than Birmingham.
Interestingly, higher rates of LGBT residents does not perfectly correlate with same-sex marriage laws, or other legal protections. Salt Lake City is in a state with legal same-sex marriage, but also with a new “religious freedom” law that seems to protect some forms of discrimination. Austin TX and New Orleans LA both outrank Miami and New York City, despite being in states with same-sex marriage bans. Birmingham ranks lowest of metro areas surveyed, but Alabama has same-sex marriage (very recently and facing challenges from its Chief Justice).
As a parent, why does this matter to me? Will my kids, or their friends, sub-optimize a career decision because of less-friendly geography? We can’t just assume that they can pursue their dreams anywhere they want to be with an equal playing field of challenges. Yet, anyway.