Though Salt Lake City has a high percentage of gay couples raising children, the actual number is still much smaller than in coastal hubs such as New York or Los Angeles, the data show. Besides the Utah capital, other large urban areas where gay couples are more likely to have children include Virginia Beach, Va., Detroit and Memphis, Tenn. — all places where more than a fifth of couples of the same sex are bringing up kids.
The percentages are even higher in some cities with populations less than 1 million. Gates found that in the Visalia and Porterville areas in California, the last census counted roughly 500 gay or lesbian couples, nearly half of whom were raising children.
Among them were Kristin Beasley and Candi Hood, 45 and 44, who joke that their family of eight is "the lesbian Brady Brunch."
The two women, friends long before they became a couple, married men and had children before realizing they were lesbian. After they came out and fell in love, both say they lost jobs and suffered bias while living in Visalia, which they chronicled in a recent book. They now live with the two youngest of their six children in nearby Reedley, where they grow plums and tangerines.
People have asked her, "Why don't you just move to San Francisco?" said Beasley, coauthor of "From Privilege to Pride: Love Is the Road." "Our families are here. Our children have grown up here. And the cost of living — it's difficult to raise a family of six in San Francisco."
Even if they weren't married before, gay and lesbian people often choose to have children in seemingly surprising places because they have strong ties to their families, researchers say.
"When you ask, 'Why are you living here?' they almost always say family," said Abbie Goldberg, an associate professor of psychology at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., who has studied gay and lesbian parents in rural areas. "It shouldn't really be surprising. They value family — and now they're creating families of their own."