New Numbers, and Geography, for Gay Couples

By SABRINA TAVERNISE – New York Times – August 25, 2011

REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. — So much for San Francisco.

The list of top cities for same-sex couples as a portion of the population does not include that traditional gay mecca, according to new census data. In fact, the city, which ranked third in 1990 and 11th in 2000, plummeted to No. 28 in 2010. And West Hollywood, once No. 1, has dropped out of the top five.

The Census Bureau data, finalized this week and analyzed by Gary Gates, a demographer at the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, gives the clearest picture to date of same-sex couples in America. In absolute numbers, they jumped by half in the past decade, to 901,997.

Most surprising is how far same-sex couples have dispersed, moving from traditional enclaves and safe havens into farther-flung areas of the country.

Consider, for example, the upstarts on the list: Pleasant Ridge, Mich., a suburb of Detroit; New Hope, Pa.; and this beach town in southern Delaware. All three have been popular destinations for gay people locally but had never ranked in the top 10.

The No. 1-ranked town is Provincetown, Mass., at the tip of Cape Cod.

The reordering reflects a growing influence of baby boomers, who became adults in the 1960s and 1970s, when the social stigma was starting to ease, and are more willing than previous generations to stand up and be counted, Mr. Gates said.

Now that generation, arguably the first in history with such a large contingent that is out, is beginning to retire, and its life transition is showing up in the data, with older cities as the new popular choices.

“As the baby boomer generation ages into retirement,” Mr. Gates said, “we see its impact really strongly in the geography.”

The pattern was in evidence in Rehoboth Beach, a family resort town of 1,300, which was fourth on the list of same-sex couples per capita and did not figure in the top 10 rankings in 1990 or 2000.

“The change was pretty dramatic,” said Rick McReynolds, 58, a resident. “It used to be all these boys,” but now, he said, the gay population in town is older and has less of a singles scene.

But people who used to party here, like Bob Moore, a retired communications professor from Pennsylvania, have since returned with their partners to live. Mr. Moore, who came out in his 40s, after two children and a divorce, said he and his partner were looking for a place that was gay friendly, but not an exclusive enclave.

“We liked the fact that it was gay without being the Castro” neighborhood of San Francisco, said Mr. Moore, 59, who was sitting with his partner, Steve Ortleib, in Rigby’s Bar and Grill on Tuesday night.

He said they had visited four top retirement destinations for same-sex couples — two in California and two in Florida — before settling on Rehoboth.

In interviews in San Francisco on Tuesday, several gay people said the city attracted people who did not always want to become part of a couple. The census does not ask about sexual orientation.

“You settle down in small towns because there is not much to choose from,” said Nick Meinzer, 41, a hairstylist who works on Castro Street. “In urban areas we wait longer to settle down. I’ve been single for two years. They’re not counting those of us who are single.”

Of the top cities like Pleasant Ridge, Mr. Meinzer said: “I’ve never even heard of those places. You’d think if they were so great you’d have heard of them.”

Dennis Ziebell, 61, the owner of Orphan Andy’s, a Castro neighborhood diner he opened 35 years ago, said he did not believe the count was accurate. “Take another survey, that’s all I can say,” he said. “I’ve been in a relationship for 36 years and nobody from the census asked me about it.”

Last year was the third time the Census Bureau counted same-sex couples. The count included people of the same sex in the same household who said they were spouses or unmarried partners (spouses were not included in 1990). Mr. Gates calculated how many same-sex couples there were for every 1,000 households within towns and cities across the country.

New York is too big to figure prominently in top city rankings for same-sex couples per capita (it was 67th in 2010, Mr. Gates said), but it does rank by county, alongside more the more traditional locations. Manhattan is No. 5, after San Francisco County, Hampshire County, Mass., Monroe County, Fla., and Multnomah County, Ore.

The city ranking is a barometer of the changing demographics among the population of same sex couples, which has grown more diffuse throughout the country over the past 20 years.

In interviews here this week, several couples said that social attitudes had softened overt time and that living farther afield was now easier to do. Mr. Gates compared the phenomenon to immigrants who no longer sought the safety of an enclave.

Steve Elkins, who runs a nonprofit community center called Camp Rehoboth, which acts as a liaison with the gay community, said cultural training classes for the summer police force would be met by stony stares in the early days. More recently, when he asked the police officers if they knew a gay person, two people in the class raised their hands to say they were gay.

“It’s a generational change in thoughts and attitudes,” he said. Rehoboth, he likes to say, used to be an island of tolerance in a sea of homophobia, and now is an island of tolerance in a sea of outlet malls.

Further evidence, Mr. Elkins said, was the quick passage of a civil unions bill that is set to take effect in Delaware on Jan. 1.


North Jersey sees 30% growth in same-sex couples

Sunday, August 14, 2011    Last updated: Sunday August 14, 2011, 5:24 PM

The Record

By the 2000s, though, they had noticed a dramatic rise in the number of gay couples living in the suburbs, a trend confirmed by new census numbers released last week.

According to those figures, culled from the 2010 census, the number of households in North Jersey headed by same-sex partners grew by 30 percent in the past decade. 

By the numbers

The number of same-sex couples rose in most North Jersey municipalities last decade.

Bergen County  2000  2010
Allendale 1 17
Alpine 8 4
Bergenfield 51 62
Carlstadt 11 14
Cliffside Park 72 56
Closter 10 15
Cresskill 5 7
Demarest 4 8
Dumont 20 25
East Rutherford 27 19
Edgewater 32 38
Elmwood Park 33 49
Emerson 14 17
Englewood 63 73
Englewood Cliffs 3 10
Fair Lawn 49 64
Fairview 34 35
Fort Lee 65 127
Franklin Lakes 14 28
Garfield 51 68
Glen Rock 15 20
Hackensack 112 145
Harrington Park 6 34
Hasbrouck Heights 19 9
Haworth 3 4
Hillsdale 19 23
Ho-Ho-Kus 8 8
Leonia 17 35
Little Ferry 24 27
Lodi 44 64
Lyndhurst 35 58
Mahwah 27 49
Maywood 24 32
Midland Park 6 8
Montvale 8 10
Moonachie 4 4
New Milford 16 37
North Arlington 28 39
Northvale 6 9
Norwood 6 7
Oakland 18 21
Old Tappan  6 8
Oradell 13 14
Palisades Park 37 41
Paramus 17 35
Park Ridge 7 11
Ramsey 20 20
Ridgefield 24 31
Ridgefield Park 21 34
Ridgewood 22 38
River Edge 24 19
River Vale 9 23
Rochelle Park 12 14
Rockleigh 0 0
Rutherford 48 65
Saddle Brook 15 40
Saddle River 6 7
South Hackensack 4 5
Teaneck 80 126
Tenafly 11 18
Teterboro 0 0
Upper Saddle River 12 13
Waldwick 10 16
Wallington 30 25
Washington Township 10 27
Westwood 19 21
Woodcliff Lake 1 5
Wood-Ridge 10 20
Wyckoff 17 24
Passaic County 2000 2010
Bloomingdale 14 23
Clifton 132 243
Haledon 13 20
Hawthorne 32 48
Little Falls 33 42
North Haledon 10 24
Passaic 142 107
Paterson 349 290
Pompton Lakes 15 29
Prospect Park 11  8
Ringwood 26 37
Totowa 13 25
Wanaque 22 20
Wayne 75 105
West Milford 58 63
West Paterson 20 32
Staff analysis by Dave Sheingold> 

Interactive map

Click here for other census results. 

And a substantial portion of those couples are raising children, like the Galluccios of North Haledon. Nearly one-fourth of North Jersey households headed by male partners and almost a third of female couples have related children living in their homes. 

“At the end of the ’90s and 2000s, there was a whole big push toward having children and it was very public, so the concept of gay couples having children was a natural progression,” said Michael Galluccio, who serves as a member of the school board at Manchester Regional High School. “It was the first time that there was an acknowledgment that we could be not only couples but families with children.” 

Same-sex partner households still represent a small portion of Bergen and Passaic county residents: just one in 160 households in Bergen County and one in 149 in Passaic County – or a total of 3,216 households in the two counties. 

Across New Jersey, one in 133 households is headed by same-sex unmarried partners. 

Steven Goldstein, the head of the leading statewide advocacy group for the gay and lesbian community, said that he too has seen a big increase in the number of same-sex couples living in the suburbs of New Jersey. 

“As we’ve gotten more rights, we’ve become more mainstream and been looking to move to the suburbs,” said Goldstein, who serves as chairman of Garden State Equality. “My partner and I did not want to continue to live in an 800-square-foot studio apartment in Manhattan with a bike taking up half the space for $1 million, so we looked to the suburbs. New Jersey is the ultimate suburban state. 

“What the census is really saying is that we same-sex couples can be as fabulously boring as everybody else,” said Goldstein, of Teaneck. “We complain about the parking in Garden State Plaza, we bitch about taxes and worry about getting a quality education for our kids.” 

Census may be low


The jump in the number of gay couples is just one piece of a broader change in the makeup of North Jersey families, with more households headed by single parents and an increase in the number of adult children living with their parents. 

Goldstein thinks the census figures fall short of the actual number of same-sex couples in New Jersey. 

“The census is an undercount,” he said. “For instance, Garden State Equality’s members include more same-sex couples in Asbury Park than the number reported by the 2010 census.” 

Goldstein said the problem lies in the way the census determines whether people are living as same-sex couples, which is by having the head of a household pick from a list of checkboxes to describe the relationships of each person living there. “Unmarried partner” is one of the choices, along with options like “other relative,” “husband/ wife,” “housemate” and “other non-relative.” 

“The census still doesn’t ask the question right out: Are you a same-sex couple?” he noted. 

Goldstein said he wondered whether the growth in New Jersey’s same-sex partner households will continue, given the passage of New York’s gay marriage act this year; New Jersey has yet to adopt such a law. 

“With New York having passed us on marriage equality, it will be interesting to see if the trend still holds true,” he said. 

The census’ data on the number of same-sex partner households with related children represent the first time the bureau has compiled that information. More than 900 same-sex couples in North Jersey reported having children living in their homes. 

Michael Patrick and Randy Dixon of Franklin Lakes are among them. The couple have lived in New Jersey for 11 years and have two adopted children: 9-year-old daughter Blake and 5-year-old son Gardner. 

“One of the reasons we moved to New Jersey was that at that stage it was one of the few states where you could adopt a child as a same-sex couple,” said Dixon. 

For that, they can thank the Galluccios. The couple, who lived in Maywood at the time, won a landmark case in 1997 when Bergen County Superior Court Judge Sybil R. Moses ruled that they could jointly adopt their foster son. 

The couple lived in California for several years, being married there, before they moved back to New Jersey in 2008. 

Jon Galluccio said that for the most part living in New Jersey has been a positive experience for the couple and their three children. 

“I would say it’s been 90 percent a great experience, maybe 95 percent,” he said. “That 5 percent is just the general crap that people have to deal with. With another family, it could be because they are Italian on an Irish block. For us, it’s because we are a gay couple.” 

Patrick and Dixon said they worried at first about what sort of reception their daughter would get in school. When Blake was small, they enrolled her in a private Montessori school. 

“As she got older, we finally decided that the Franklin Lakes schools have a great reputation, so we decided to put her in public school,” Dixon added. “We were pleasantly surprised to find there were no issues. Our daughter and son have play dates with other kids, our daughter’s friends come for sleepovers.” 

Living in an upscale, well-educated community helps, he acknowledged. “A lot of our neighbors work in the city and they know gay people. It’s not a big deal to them.” 

Nevertheless, the couple said they feel some pressure to be the best parents possible.

“One of the things that happens as gay parents is you feel you have to make sure you’re doing the best job and your children never are in any trouble,” Patrick said. “God forbid something should happen and people say, ‘It’s the gay parents.’ ”

Melissa B. Brisman, a Montvale attorney whose firm specializes in helping clients deal with reproductive legal issues, said she handles more than 50 adoptions annually for gay and lesbian couples. Another 75 or so homosexual couples a year hire her firm to help them have children through surrogate mothers.

Brisman estimated that gay and lesbian couples account for about a quarter of her clients.

“I own a surrogacy agency and we get a ton of gay men coming to surrogates to bear children,” Brisman said. The number of gay men using surrogate mothers to give birth is on the rise for a number of reasons, she added.

“One is just that surrogacy is more readily available and acceptable,” Brisman said. She pointed out that several gay celebrities, including Elton John, Neil Patrick Harris and Ricky Martin, have publicly discussed having their children through surrogate mothers.

“The science is also better,” Brisman added. “Where once the odds of success were around 10 percent, now they’re around 80 percent.”

For many female couples, in-vitro fertilization using donor sperm is the path to having children, noted Dr. Serena H. Chen, director of reproductive medicine at the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science at Saint Barnabas Health in Livingston.

“I would say maybe 5 percent of our clients are lesbian couples,” Chen said. “It’s something we see on a regular basis, and it’s not something anybody blinks an eye at.”

The time I had two mommies: Being raised by a gay couple was hard in the 80s & 90s

 Daily News

By Matt Borden Thursday, July 28th 2011

You might think it strange that, as a straight man, I shed tears of joy when I learned that same-sex marriage was coming to New York. Even I was taken aback by my own reaction, because for me and my wife, life won’t be much different. However, as one of the millions of people who were raised, or partially raised, by a gay couple, I felt indescribable relief knowing that the stigmatization I experienced as a child will (hopefully) not be an issue for future generations.

I am a child of famously liberal Manhattan, but growing up in the ’80s and ’90s with a gay mother was not easy. For all of New York’s diversity, it was still a homophobic place. Gay people were tolerated only as long as they lived a marginalized Greenwich Village existence. Gay bashing on Saturday nights was such a frequent occurrence that a militant advocacy group called the Pink Panthers walked around the West Village wearing shirts that said “Bash Back” to those at risk. Gay families weren’t welcome at PTA meetings or soccer games.

Of course, no friends of mine had parents who were gay – everyone knew that gay people didn’t have children. They couldn’t even adopt in New York State until 2002. So what did that make me? Legally, at least, I didn’t exist.

When my mother began her relationship with another woman in 1988, Ellen DeGeneres and Rosie O’Donnell were still kissing men in movies, and Mariel Hemingway was but a twinkle in Roseanne’s eye. The seeming normalcy of “Will and Grace” was still a decade away. George Michael, now openly gay, was a heartthrob for teenage girls.

Soon after they started dating, my mom partner’s moved in with us, and although we never talked about what was happening, I knew that my family was different. My father lived across town, and even though he had joint custody and I saw him every other day, I never told him about my mom, fearing that the government would find out and deem her an unfit parent.

I kept the relationship secret from my friends, too. When my mom and her partner held hands in public, I cringed in discomfort and made them promise not to do it in front of me. I feel embarrassed to admit it now, but when people came over to my house and my mom’s partner was present, she always had to pretend to be a roommate or a friend – I didn’t care what, really, but the truth had to be concealed at all costs. I even refused to go to their commitment ceremony at a Chinese restaurant in the West Village when I was 13 because it just felt too weird.

That’s the funny thing about social mores: They exert their unseen influence whether you’re aware of it or not. My mother’s happiness shouldn’t have been a burden to me, but it was. And I wasn’t alone in feeling this way. As Danielle Silber, New York chapter president of Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere, has said, “In middle school, because of pervasive homophobia and taunting, I didn’t tell any of my new friends in school about my family.” This stigmatization by proxy put a generation of people just like me in the closet, bearing the burden of our parents’ choices in a homophobic society.

I reluctantly “came out” about my mother’s relationship when I was 18, but only because I had developed an ulcer from keeping my life a secret, popping Tums like they were Tic Tacs. And even then, I told only those closest to me, including my father, who, in an interesting twist, informed me that he had figured the situation out years before.

Fortunately, my friends and family were supportive – and over time the shame I used to feel has completely disappeared. Now, I’m not concerned about the gender of the person my mom is with, only their shared happiness. That has as much to do with society’s progression as it does with my own personal journey.

Future sons and daughters of gay families will surely have struggles of their own. Just as the passage of civil rights legislation did not end racism, the passage of marriage equality will not end homophobia. However, victories like marriage equality will shape new attitudes and help move us toward becoming a society that prevents a new generation of children from having to face the same burdens that I faced.

I know that, right now, there is a kid somewhere with two moms or two dads who will one day soon be able to go to school and proudly announce, “My parents got married this weekend!” and no one will have anything to offer but congratulations. And that thought alone gives me hope for the future.