By Lindsay Whitehurst, The Salt Lake Tribune - Salt Lake City has a higher percentage of same-sex couples raising children than any other metro area in the country, according to a new report.
Though the city doesn’t have the country’s largest gay and lesbian community, Utah’s capital city and its suburbs boast the highest rate — 26 percent — of same-sex couples sharing parenthood, according to an analysis of census data by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.
Resident Weston Clark, whose adopted son is now 3 years old, said he’s been amazed at how quickly he’s found other same-sex parents.
"In Utah, especially those of us who are from Utah originally, it’s ingrained in our culture that family is important," Clark said. "It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight, you still want that."
Keri Jones, meanwhile, said she’s seen a "gaby boom" over the last dozen years.
"Where my daughter goes to school, there are another six or seven kids who have same-gender parents," she said. "It doesn’t have the same kind of stigma it used to."
The study found that of the 2,846 same-sex couples counted by the 2010 census in Salt Lake City, 748 had children. The metro area topped the list of cities with a population of 1 million or more, with Virginia Beach, Va.; Memphis, Tenn.; San Antonio, Texas; and Detroit not far behind.
The highest rates, though, were in smaller cities. In the North Dakota towns of Grand Forks and Bismarck, more than 60 percent of gay couples are raising children.
All those cities are in states with bans on same-sex marriage.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals "tend to come out later in life in socially conservative areas where stigma is higher," said researcher Gary J. Gates in an email. "As a result, they are more likely than those in more accepting social climates to have relationships with different-sex partners while young and some of those relationships produce children."
That situation can be tough on gay families, he said, when it comes to legal guardianship rights for a same-sex partner in a new relationship.
For those who haven’t been previously married, building a family in Utah can also be hard as the state prohibits adoption by same-sex couples, though gay singles can still adopt.
But "when you want to create a family, you just figure out a way to do it," said Jones, who adopted her 3-year-old daughter Glory with her spouse, Cristy Gleave.
She considered moving.
"Just the safety of being [in another state], knowing our daughter is protected as soon as we cross the border, it makes a huge difference," she said. But, "parents are here, grandparents are here — it’s hard leaving a place where all our families are."
Clark and his partner adopted out-of-state, a process he called "expensive and not fun."
So far, they’ve raised their son in an "open, accepting community" in Salt Lake City, but he worries a bit about his son Xander starting preschool.
"I expect there to be hurdles along the way," he said, "but for the most part it’s pretty good."