Fenway Health, Williams Institute present new lesbian, gay family population stats

by Hannah Clay Wareham

Bay Windows

Friday August 14, 2009

At Fenway Health's 2009 Annual Faculty meeting July 30, UCLA's Gary Gates presented the results of several nationwide studies involving the nation's 194,000 gay, lesbian, and bisexual couples who have children under the age of 18.

The results of multiple surveys, including U.S. Census data, were collected by the UCLA School of Law's Williams Institute, at which Gates is a senior research fellow.

During Gates' presentation, held in Fenway Health's new Boylston Street residence, the keynote speaker said the study indicated that LGB parenting is more likely to occur in regions where fewer legal protections are available to LGB families, such as the South and the heartland.

"Gay people living outside of gay enclaves are more likely to be parents," Gates said.

As explanation, Gates offered the possible desire of LGB parents to raise their children in family-focused communities. "Gay people have kids where other people have kids," Gates said. The researcher also indicated that different-sex couples living in the South and the nation's heartland are more likely to have children than those who live on either the West or East coasts.

Many couples in the South and the heartland tend to get married or have children before coming out, another possible explanation for the numbers. The partnerships and parenting that occur after coming out result in what Gates called "non-intentional LGB parenting." He expects "intentional LGB parenting" to rise as Americans continue to feel more comfortable coming out.

The study also revealed that same-sex couples are more likely to adopt or foster a child than are different-sex couples. Of LGB families that have children, 10 percent are likely to adopt or foster a child; 4 percent of different-sex married couples choose to adopt or foster.

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