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.
The Supreme Court’s rulings today in the Defense of Marriage Act case and California’s Prop 8 case isn’t only good for same-sex couples who are married or want to marry, and for their kids; it’s great news for ALL kids. I think it’s good for all adults too, and is even good for my marriage, but that’s another post. Here are my reasons all kids won today:
- Children and teens who are questioning their attractions, and those who have come to self-identify as not heterosexual, will have more visible examples of people like them in committed relationships which are recognized by society as a normal form for love to take. Disney movies may still be very hetero-normative, but there will be proof in real life that “Tale as Old As Time” and “Magic Carpet Ride” can be about THEIR loves too.
- Queer and questioning children and teens will face a much-diminished loss reaction from their parents when they reveal their attractions. All parents dream of their children’s happiness; it may be deep down, but a wedding is usually somewhere in those dreams.
- Kids of same-sex couples will get fewer “where’s your mom/dad?” questions, whether or not their parents actually marry. Consciously and unconsciously we associate marriage with children, so I believe we are close to a tipping point: as soon most people personally know someone with a same-sex spouse, it will become boringly normal for a kid to be raised in a same-sex household.
- Kids in households with married same-sex parents will enjoy greater economic security; citizenship benefits will be available to immigrant spouses, health plan benefits can be claimed, military spousal benefits are available, and child-support requirements will be strengthened in the unhappy event of the dissolution of the relationship.
- When you are inspired by what you recognize as a historic moment, that’s a gift. ALL children old enough to remember this day can claim to have seen this civil rights victory. I wasn’t sure I would see this in my lifetime, and my kids know that. I hope it makes them hopeful and persistent about righting other wrongs.