What The Wild Things Are

Understandings of Self, Awareness, and Mental Health in an Ever-Changing World

A Million Couples

Gay couples and families are already living everywhere amongst us.

Have we "hit bottom" yet with our resistance to gay marriage?  If not, perhaps the new census data will help.

The Williams Institute, a same-sex advocacy think tank out of UCLA, released its research yesterday on gay couples in the United States from the latest census data.  The data is groundbreaking and has potential implications for debates on issues such as immigration, Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and state marriage laws.

The Williams Institute report states that there are close to a million same-sex couples living in 99 percent of American counties across the US, in cities large and small. Not surprisingly, San Francisco topped the list of large cities, but there were unexpected finds as well: Salt Lake City, for example, ranked among the top of the mid-sized cities. Also amidst the findings was the fact that sixty percent of the same-sex couples surveyed were female and 22 percent are currently raising children. 

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Today, the Defense Department is expected to certify the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the final step in allowing gays to serve in the military without any effect on how they are treated.  When the Obama Administration raised this issue, there were some who were opposed to it, but most were not, and most service members acknowledged that they already knew of someone who was gay who they served with and they had respect for that individual.

In a sense, this census research makes a similar statement about gay marriage and gay families in America.  While DOMA continues pose as a "defense of marriage," in truth, it simply creates a headache for states and the military trying to provide equal access, rights, and benefits to gay couples and families.  Gay couples and families already exist - in every county and most cities in the US - and most people likely already know someone who is gay, whether they know it or not.  So the fears that providing legal legitimacy will change things societally (e.g. change the state of heterosexual marriage) is clearly unfounded.

Perhaps this new data will help to open those people who remain homophobic.  Sometimes when there is psychological or emotional resistance to change, information that overwhelms cognitive distortions can be relieving and allow the person to change their position, relieving them of the conflict they feel.  When those who have substance abuse problems "hit bottom," the information from the outside world about their substance use and abuse simply overwhelms the denial they have been trying to maintain.  Perhaps the hard facts and data in the latest census will have a similar effect on the US as a whole.

 

Samantha Smithstein, Psy.D., is a clinical and forensic psychologist and co-founder of the Pathways Institute for Impulse Control in San Francisco.

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