Colorado has seen a tremendous increase in the number of same-sex couples residing in the state over the past few decades – a trend that’s being echoed in other traditionally conservative Mountain and Southern states.
The number of gay couples in the eight-state Mountain region has increased seven-fold since 1990, according to a study released Monday by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, a think tank dedicated to sexual orientation law and public policy. It’s the largest regional increase in the country except in the east South Central states of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee, which saw an increase of 863 percent.
Researchers looked at data from the U.S. Census Bureau from 1990 through 2006 and found that across the U.S., the number of same-sex couples increased 21 times faster than the population. The largest increases were found in states that have traditionally been more conservative and less accepting of homosexuality. According to the study:
“Places with lower levels of acceptance of homosexuality in the early 1990s no doubt had larger portions of lesbians and gay men who were not open about their sexual orientation and perhaps not willing to cohabit openly even if they were coupled. Effectively, these areas had relatively larger `closets.’ With more ground to cover in terms of increases in social acceptance, one would expect that relatively large changes in social climate produce similarly large increases in the counts of same-sex couples, especially when compared to areas with higher initial levels of social acceptance.”
More traditionally liberal regions experienced smaller increases in the number of gay couples. Pacific states saw about a two-fold increase; New England states saw a four-fold increase.
Although Coloradans voted last year in favor of a ban on gay marriage and against an initiative to give gay couples some legal rights, there are other indications that attitudes toward gay couples have changed. In 1993, a year after voters passed the anti-gay Amendment 2, a Ciruli Associates poll found half of Coloradans thought homosexual relations were “always morally wrong.” In 2002, the percentage had dropped to 36 percent.
The study also found Colorado has the ninth-highest concentration of same-sex couples in the country with nearly eight such couples for every thousand households.