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FYI Guy

Seattle Times news librarian Gene Balk crunches the numbers

October 7, 2012 at 4:00 PM

Just how gay is Seattle?

Seattle during Gay Pride, 2006 (photo by Lsc2seattle via Wikimedia Commons)

The battle is heating up over Referendum 74, which will ask voters to decide if the new law allowing same-sex marriage in Washington should be upheld.  The people who will be most immediately affected by the outcome of this vote, naturally, are gay men and lesbians.

So just how many people would that be here in Washington and in Seattle?

It would be nice if there were good, solid data to answer that question, but there really aren’t.   The Census Bureau doesn’t ask about sexual orientation directly.   There are some surveys of the gay population, but the best they can do is approximate an overall figure for the country, not for individual states, counties and cities.

However, there is a relevant question that the Census Bureau does ask, and it at least hints at an answer.

Since 1990, the Census has asked Americans if they are in a same-sex partner household.   Theoretically, we can assume that there is a correlation between the percentage of same-sex partner households and the overall gay population of a particular place; in other words, the more gay couples, the more gay people.

A think tank based at UCLA, the Williams Institute, crunched the Census data to derive the percent of same-sex couples in states, counties, cities and towns across the nation.

So what do we learn from the Census about the current state of gay Washington?

We have about 16,000 same-sex couple households statewide.  That comes out to a rate of  7.3 same-sex couples per every 1,000 households.

More than half of Washington’s same-sex couples live in King County, which has not only the largest number of these couples, but also the highest percentage — there are 12.1 same-sex couples for every 1,000 households in the county (or 1.2 percent of all households).  That ranks King as the county with the 19th highest percentage of same-sex couples of all counties in the United States.  Three other Washington counties rank in the top 100 nationally: Jefferson, San Juan and Thurston, in that order.

There is a wide gulf between eastern and western Washington when it comes to gay and lesbian couples.  In the state’s top 15 counties for same-sex couples, the only one from the eastern side of the state is Spokane, which comes in at 14th place.

There is one county in Washington that actually has no gay couples at all — Garfield (any volunteers to move out there and make county history?).

And what is Washington’s gayest community?  If you’re thinking it’s got to be Seattle — close but no cigar.

The Castro of the Northwest?  Gay little Vashon Island (Photo by Joe Mabel via Wikimedia Commons)

The answer: Vashon Island!  3.3 percent of Vashon households are a same-sex couple, which not only ranks it first in the state, but 22nd in the entire country.  Seattle has to settle for 2nd place in Washington, with 2.3 percent of households being same-sex partners.  That ranks the Emerald City as 38th nationally, but it should be noted that among America’s large cities (250,000+ population), Seattle ranks 2nd only to San Francisco.

So here they are — Washington’s top 5 gayest cities:

STATE RANK

U.S. RANK

CITY

# GAY COUPLES

% GAY HHLDS

1

22

Vashon

152

3.3

2

38

Seattle

6,537

2.3

3

97

Bryn Mawr-Skyway

79

1.4

4

134

Lake Forest Park

38

1.2

5

138

Olympia

241

1.2

Surprised by these rankings?  Or what you’d expect?  Feel free to leave a comment.

————-

Note: The source for this data is the Williams Institute report on Census 2010 for Washington, which can be found by clicking here.  To come up with their numbers of same-sex couples, the researchers combined two Census categories: “same-sex unmarried-partner” households, together with  same-sex couple households in which the partners chose to identify themselves as “husband/wife” rather than same-sex unmarried partners.

0 Comments | More in Demographics | Topics: elections, gay, lesbian

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