Out of the Closet and Into the Polling Booth

| Thu Oct. 12, 2006 1:26 PM EDT

There are more queers in the heartland than there were five years ago, according to a new analysis of 2005 Census data released [PDF] by the Williams Institute, a think tank focused on sexual orientation. Nationwide, the number of out same-sex couples increased by 30 percent in five years—five times the 6 percent growth rate of the general population. The Midwest saw the largest gains.

The study suggests that far from driving gays and lesbians into the closet or into Straight to Jesus programs, anti-gay ballot measures may be helping bring gays and lesbians out of the closet. States that were among the first to forbid same-sex marriage have seen greater than average growth in the number of same-sex couples living together and announcing it on government forms. The surge may surprise supporters of the anti-gay measures on the ballot in eight states: In six of those states, the number of same-sex couples has increased by 30 percent or more since the 2000 Census.

The larger numbers of gay and lesbian voters may affect more than just gay issues in November. As it turns out, of the 10 states that have seen the number of same-sex couples increase by half or more, eight figure among the key congressional races in the upcoming election.

Pollsters have hardly been in hot pursuit of how gays and lesbians will vote.