INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The number of gay and lesbian households in Indiana jumped 61 percent during the past decade, and about a quarter of those same-sex couples are raising children, new U.S. Census Bureau figures show.
The data released Thursday reveal that Indiana had 16,428 households led by same-sex couples in 2010, up from about 10,000 such households counted in the 2000 census.
Census 2010 takers counted 9,409 Indiana households headed by a woman and her female partner and 7,019 households headed by a man and his male partner. Twenty-six percent of those same-sex couples reported that their household includes children they are raising.
Matt Kinghorn, an economic research analyst at the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University, said it's unclear if the increase in Indiana's same-sex households shown in the census data reflect an actual growth in the number of such households or if same-sex couples are becoming less leery of reporting their relationship status.
"There's nothing in the data that will tell us that," Kinghorn said. "It seems to me there would be some growth but I think a good part of it is a growing willingness to report their status as a same-sex couple because it's becoming more socially acceptable."
Rick Sutton, the president of the gay rights organization Indiana Equality, believes the new numbers reflect both trends. He said more same-sex couples are living together in Indiana and those couples are growing less apprehensive about reporting their relationship to the federal agency.
But he said he believes the number of same-sex couples in the state and nationwide remain underreported, in part because some gays and lesbians are worried about what the Census Bureau or others will do with the information.
Sutton's group and other advocacy groups for gays and lesbians opposed a state constitutional amendment Indiana lawmakers passed this spring that would ban gay marriage and civil unions in the state. That measure must win legislative approval again in 2013 or 2014 to face a statewide referendum in November 2014.
Despite that legislative push, Sutton said Indiana residents are becoming more tolerant and accepting of same-sex relationships, in part from personally meeting gays and lesbians in their communities open about their sexuality.
"They're everywhere. They're in every church, every business and I think as more Hoosiers see that same-sex couples work, pay taxes, go to school, take care of kids and aging parents, are part of clubs — as they see more of that "regular" activity, barriers start to fall," he said.
Although the new figures show a significant increase in Indiana's reported same-sex households, the more than 16,000 same-sex households in 2010 accounted for less than 1 percent of the state's 2.5 million households.
However, while census forms allow same-sex couples living together to be recognized, the census doesn't allow single people to identify their sexual orientation. That means the numbers aren't a measure of how many gay people live in Indiana.
Among the many other findings in the new census data are that Indiana had more than 1.2 million husband-and-wife households in 2010, down about 10,000 from 2000. And nearly 173,000 households were headed by unmarried couples, up about 38 percent from 2000.
The latest wave of census data is the most detailed findings released to date from last year's census on Indiana's population. It includes data on families and household relationships, housing, age, race and Hispanic origin. Some of the data illuminates those categories down to the makeup of individual neighborhoods.