Derryn and Angela left San Francisco after decades, settling for a short time in St. Cloud near Angela’s parents before moving on to the Twin Cities.

Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

Minnesota sees 50% rise in number of gay couples

  • Article by: DAVID PETERSON
  • Star Tribune
  • July 14, 2011 - 11:31 AM

Minnesota has seen a quiet surge in the number of same-sex households over the past decade, and the trend has moved beyond the core of the Twin Cities into many suburbs.

The U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday released its second-ever count of same-sex partners in Minnesota, and the numbers detailed a dramatic picture of change:

• A 50 percent jump in same-sex households, a rate of growth five times faster than households overall. The census counted 13,718 same-sex couples in 2010, accounting for about 1 percent of all couples statewide.

•A pronounced spreading-out of traditional "gayborhoods." Minneapolis accounts for nearly one in four same-sex couples, towering over the rest of the state in sheer numbers, but its dominance is fading. Neighboring Golden Valley now claims the highest concentration among cities of ample size. A lesbian Realtor who lives there greeted the news in two words: "Not surprised."

•Although other states are also seeing big jumps, the Twin Cities could well retain its 2000 position as the gay mecca between the coasts. Only a sprinkling of state numbers have yet been reported, but it's known that Hennepin County by 2010 was roughly equal in concentration to Sonoma County north of San Francisco, the second-highest-ranking county in California.

The numbers point to a "sea change" in attitudes, said Monica Meyer, executive director of the gay advocacy group OutFront Minnesota. "People are coming here because we have a great quality of life," she said, "and because they can be open here about who they are and who they love."

The statistics emerged during a time of abrupt contrasts for gays in Minnesota.

A national magazine named Minneapolis the nation's most gay-friendly city.

At the same time, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, long a lightning rod for gays, has gained prominence as a presidential aspirant. And a Republican-dominated Legislature has the state headed toward a 2012 referendum on a constitutional amendment against gay marriage.

The jump in numbers in a state with that sort of turmoil is no surprise for at least two reasons, said Gary Gates, a leading expert on gay demographics at UCLA.

"Every time there are serious advances, there is some level of backlash," he said. "And across the country, the growth in [same-sex partner] numbers is more prominent in the more conservative places -- places where people are more willing to report themselves as gay these days than in the past."

An increase since 2000 in the number of same-sex partners reflects three changes: More gays and lesbians in the area; more choosing to live together, and more of them willing to identify themselves as gay.

For Derryn, who was moving into her new home in Minneapolis Wednesday with her partner, Angela, after decades in the San Francisco area and then a short stint in St. Cloud, the move was about both lifestyle and a comfort zone.

"I just missed being close to a Whole Foods and a Trader Joe's, to places that serve hummus and things like that," said Derryn, who asked that no last names be published.

"Angela's folks live near St. Cloud and they were like, 'Why do you want to move to the Cities?' And I said, 'Say you were the only straight on your street. The neighbors might be friendly, but wouldn't it be great to talk to a guy who's married to a woman and you could drink a beer and talk about your wives?' And they got it!"

Jacqueline Day has lived with a partner and children and sold homes in Golden Valley for many years. Day said the suburb appeals to her and her clients.

"It's comfortable for us here: a progressive city that's been welcoming, and the word spreads."

Anne Dykstra, 72, a human rights commission member in the city, said she thinks straight people in Golden Valley are aware of the changes. "We've got an aging population here, which in a way flies in the face of the usual canard that older people won't accept gays, and I find that interesting."

Staff writer Glenn Howatt provided data analysis for this report. David Peterson • 952-882-9023

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