New Facts Emerge in Same-Sex Marriage Research

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- A few salient facts are known about the Americans whose lives might be changed by a Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage expected this summer.

About 1 in 5 gay and lesbian couples are raising children under age 18. Same-sex couples are less likely than traditional married couples to have health insurance covering them both. One in 10 men with a male partner or spouse is a military veteran. As many as 6 million Americans, roughly 2 percent of the population, have a parent who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

These nuggets of demographic insight into same-sex couples were contained in an amicus brief filed last week in connection with two cases before the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of California's gay marriage ban and the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Although posed in dry, academic language, the statistics represent a remarkable step forward in what is known about the lives of lesbians and gays.

As gays become more visible in politics, challenging laws that stigmatize their relationships, demographic research into lesbians and gays is emerging from the shadows. Some gay advocates say it's time for surveys to ask people point-blank to identify their sexual orientation.

"There is quite a bit about the LGBT population we don't know," said Gary Gates, the most prominent of only a few demographers focusing on gay statistics, who drew on census data for the demographic brief filed in the Supreme Court. "As a political and cultural issue, it's very important for us to understand how big and visible this population is."

Gay activists say they need even more research done, sometimes just to make the case that they exist in every community.

"When our legislative affairs director goes into congressmen's offices, they're often told, 'I have no gay people in my district,' " said Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, a civil rights group urging protections for gays. …