ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – The number of households with same-sex couples rose by 50 percent over the past decade to nearly 14,000, according to new figures from the 2010 Census, even as the state heads toward a constitutional vote on same-sex marriage in next year’s election.
Census data released Wednesday night showed 13,718 gay and lesbian households in the state, or less than 1 percent of the total. Just over 3,000 of those same-sex households also had children.
University of Minnesota family social sciences professor Bill Doherty told Minnesota Public Radio News the big increase in same-sex couples in the 2010 census may be attributable to those couples being more comfortable reporting their living situation.
“In 1970, it was considered `living in sin,’ and 1980, much more acceptable,” Doherty said. “So, we’re probably in the same trajectory with same-sex couples being now more willing to report it. That it isn’t just a roommate, that it’s a partner.”
The Census Bureau first began counting same-sex couples in the 2000 Census, when same-sex marriage wasn’t legal in any state. By the time the 2010 Census was taken, it was legal in five states plus the District of Columbia. The latest census found gay couples living together in each of Minnesota’s 87 counties.
One such household was in the Longfellow neighborhood of south Minneapolis. Peter Sage is a teacher who lives with his partner of 10 years, and their 4-year-old son.
“For us, it was about letting it be known that we are out there, hopefully in significant numbers,” Sage said. “I think 10 years ago, it would have been different. People would have been more hesitant.”
For Phil Duran, staff attorney for Outfront Minnesota, a non-profit that lobbies for gay rights, the broad distribution of gay couples is evidence that the constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman would affect families statewide.
“It just reinforces the fact that same-sex couples are part of the mainstream,” Duran said. “They may not be the bulk of it, but the fact is: Same-sex couples are a part of every community throughout Minnesota.”
In addition to the increase in same-sex couples living together, the last census saw a 42 percent increase in cohabiting heterosexual couples.
Both trends concern Tom Prichard of the Minnesota Family Council. Prichard said he believes marriage would provide a stronger base for children raised in the male-female households. He opposes permitting same-sex couples to marry.
“Are we going to allow less than 1 percent of the population to redefine a fundamental institution — marriage?” he said. “I mean, it’s not like we’re just allowing a few same-sex couples to marry. We’re changing the definition for everybody.”
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