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Same-Sex Couples Moving Out of Seattle’s Gayborhoods

by Shaun Knittel
Contributor
Thursday Aug 11, 2011
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The number of gay and lesbian households in Washington increased by 50 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to new U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

Much of this increase happened outside the city of Seattle. More surprisingly in Seattle, however, same-sex couples living are moving out of Capitol Hill and other historically gay neighborhoods into all parts of Seattle and Lynwood, Shoreline, Lake Forest Park and other suburbs.

"While census statistics can only tell a small part of the ongoing story of the struggle for LGBT equality, since census data is not collected on LGBT individuals, only same-sex couples, there is no question but that the new census data helps explain the dramatic rise in support for marriage equality we see occurring throughout much of Washington State," said Joshua Friedes, marriage equality program director for Equal Rights Washington.

Equal Rights Washington continues to gear up for the possibility of nuptials for same-sex couples in the Evergreen State as early as next year.

"Nothing breeds support for marriage equality like familiarity with LGBT families and individuals," added Friedes. "So, the 2010 census information which shows dramatic increases in the number of LGBT families living in places such as Clark County help to explain why support for marriage equality is trending upwards in many parts of Washington State."

For years, the majority of the state’s LGBT population and same-sex households remained in one area-Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood where LGBT nightlife, support organization and the like, thrive. The new census data shows that the number of LGBT residents barely budged on the Hill from 2000 to 2010, increasing only faintly for male couples and not at all for females.

Thurston, Jefferson, Mason and San Juan Counties joined King County in having the highest rate of same-sex couples per 1,000 households. Vashon led cities, towns and unincorporated areas with the highest rate of same-sex couples per 1,000 households. Bryn Mawr-Skyway, Lake Forest Park, Olympia and Seattle were all among the localities with the highest concentrations of gay and lesbian couples.

Same-sex households with children, whose numbers were reported in the 2010 decennial census for the first time, additionally show up in some unforeseen places. Yakima, Wenatchee and Pasco had some of the highest concentrations in the state. The voters in those towns historically vote against pro-gay measures.

Twenty percent of the 24,278 same-sex households in the state are raising children.

Experts say that many factors contribute to the growth of same-sex households in Washington over the decade; mainly, since 2000. Canada and six American states and the District of Columbia have legalized marriage for same-sex couples while the Evergreen State has a domestic partnership law that grants same-sex couples many of the same state-level benefits as married people.

Friedes and Equal Rights Washington officials are celebrating the doubled-number of same-sex households in the state as they look towards starting a campaign to secure marriage equality in Washington State-a 2009 Gallop poll found those who personally know someone who is gay or lesbian were more likely to support marriage equality than oppose it.

"Whether you are gay or straight it’s important to engage your friends, family and co-workers in conversations about why marriage equality matters," said Friedes. "People who report having talked to others about the issue are much more likely to support marriage equality than people who say they have not had a conversation with another person about the subject," he said. "Our research shows that straight allies can be remarkably successful in advocating with their peers for marriage equality. Anecdotal evidence suggests the best approach is sharing personal stories about LGBT people you know and the importance marriage has played in your own life and the life of those you love."

In other words, in theory, as the number of same-sex couples rises, so too, will support for marriage equality. "Momentum for marriage equality in Washington State is rapidly increasing," stressed Friedes.

Shaun Knittel is an openly gay journalist and public affairs specialist living in Seattle. His work as a photographer, columnist, and reporter has appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the Pacific Northwest. In addition to writing for EDGE, Knittel is the current Associate Editor for Seattle Gay News.

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