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Survey: City's Gay Presence Strong

Population Rate Near Top In Nation

October 13, 2006
By DANIELA ALTIMARI, Courant Staff Writer

Gay men, lesbians and bisexuals make up nearly 7 percent of Hartford's population, the 10th-highest rate among U.S. cities, new government figures show.

Nancy Naples isn't surprised. The University of Connecticut professor lives in the city's West End with her partner, Mary Bernstein, and their 2-year-old twins.

"Next door is a gay man, diagonally across the street is another gay male couple, down the block to the right is another lesbian couple," Naples said. "This is a very rich, diverse community."

The 2005 figures show that Hartford is behind such traditionally gay-friendly cities as San Francisco and Boston. The U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey puts the Hartford region's gay population at 5.6 percent and the city's at 6.8 percent.

By comparison, New York City's gay, lesbian and bisexual population is 4.1 percent of the city's total population, according to the survey.

The 2000 Census counted 7,386 same-sex couples in Connecticut; the new survey puts the number at 10,174. Unlike the census, which is an actual count, the survey is based on estimates drawn from a 1.4 million-household sample of the U.S. population.

According to the survey, the Hartford region's same-sex couples are almost evenly split between male and female.

The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation, Law and Public Policy at UCLA says the change from the 2000 Census to the 2005 survey is attributable less to an actual increase in numbers than to the fact that more same-sex couples are willing to identify themselves publicly.

Anne Stanback, who leads a coalition dedicated to winning legislative approval for gay marriage, says Hartford's comparatively high percentage of same-sex couples is the result of a political environment that accepts gays and lesbians. Connecticut was one of the first states to provide civil rights protections to gays and lesbians. Last year, the state became only the second in the nation to permit civil unions.

"It's not one factor," said Stanback, executive director of Love Makes a Family. "But there's a positive political environment. You've got a mayor who's pro gay, you've got two openly gay legislators in Hartford. ... All of those pieces come into play on top of Hartford being the state capital."

Stanback predicted the increasing - and increasingly visible - gay population will provide a boost to her group's effort to push for same-sex marriage.

Brian Brown, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut and an opponent of same-sex marriage, disagreed. Although he hadn't studied the survey, he agreed that the large numbers are not at all surprising.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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