Now that marriage equality is the law of the land, LGBT people are moving to states they never would have considered before.
Why we relocate is always a personal story impacted by age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, family and other factors. Livability will explore these topics in a new series of feature articles called Moving Stories.
As a young lesbian, Diane Anderson-Minshall had to hide who she was every time she visited her hometown of Payette, Idaho. Though she had strong roots in the area, she never thought she’d be able to return to the Gem State. But since the U.S. Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, Diane, like a growing number of LGBT people, is open to moving to parts of the country that were once off the table.
“Once I came out as queer, I assumed that meant I could never really go back – and indeed, I used to hide when I was in town,” Anderson-Minshall says. “Nowadays, that’s not at all the case. I have plenty of friends who’ve gone back.”
Anderson-Minshall, who edits LGBT news magazine The Advocate, currently lives about 30 miles outside Palm Springs, Calif., with her “queerly beloved” husband, transgender author Jacob Anderson-Minshall. She and Jacob both left small towns in Idaho after high school in search of a community where they could be themselves. And while Payette and Jacob’s even smaller hometown of Inkom are a bit too rural still for their tastes, she says she could see living in Boise.
“In the 25 years we’ve been together, we’ve almost always said we couldn’t move home to Idaho,” Anderson-Minshall says. Though she and Jacob lived in Boise for about six months in the late 1990s, Boise was different then, and so were they. “Going from San Francisco back to Idaho, I just missed LGBT life at the time. Now that we’re nearly 50 and wanting a much different things out of life, we look at things differently.”
And the SCOTUS decision plays a major role in changing the way LGBT people see historically conservative states like Idaho, and the way people in those states treat them.
“Idaho has changed, and this Supreme Court decision is part of it,” Anderson-Minshall says. “I talk via Facebook with friends back home and even those that are Republicans – as most of our state is – feel like the marriage issue is the law of the land, so there’s no fight, and they think that LGBT people should have equal rights in terms of jobs, marriage and housing.”
Though they have no immediate plans to move, Anderson-Minshall says that because her job allows her to work remotely most of the time and because she misses her home state’s natural beauty, Idaho’s pull grows stronger.
As equal marriage rights and other legal protections have spread across the U.S., so too have LGBT people. Census data now shows that same-sex couples can be found in 93 percent of American counties and are less segregated than they were before 2000.
Small Cities Gaining Gays
Amin Ghaziani, author of There Goes the Gayborhood?, writes about the movement away from gay enclaves to a more broadly dispersed LGBT population. As mainstream society is increasingly accepting of LGBT people, he says, these communities feel welcome to stretch out into suburban, rural and historically conservative areas. As a result, pockets of LGBT people are emerging in unexpected places.
“Maybe the gay neighborhood in the Castro isn’t worth saving,” Ghaziani writes, quoting a Chicago lesbian from Nebraska. “But maybe the one in Arizona or Nebraska or New Mexico or Iowa or Idaho is absolutely worth cultivating.”
But it’s not just passive acceptance that’s motivating LGBT people to move away from large metro areas. Some places are actively recruiting them to marry, visit, and ultimately move to their city or state.
Even in Arizona, a state that made headlines for promoting legislation characterized as giving businesses the “right to discriminate” against LGBT people, savvy business owners are trying to capitalize on the marriage equality’s arrival.
Michael McFall, publisher of Pride Guide, told the Washington Times last fall that he’s seen a jump in calls from Arizona business since a federal judge overturned that state’s ban on same-sex marriage in October. He says that many were looking to take out an ad for the first time.
Some hotel owners are actively marketing to LGBT customers, while others are offering discounts that quietly celebrate the expansion of equal marriage rights.
“Now, I can market it not only as a gay-friendly place to stay,” Daniel Carrillo, sales director at Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa, told the Washington Times, “but I can market it as an open venue for you to do your service, your wedding, your reception, your rehearsal dinner.”
Even in Kentucky, tourism officials are more actively reaching out to LGBT folks following the Supreme Court ruling. Louisville’s NPR station, WFPL 89.3, reported in July that the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau is jumping at opportunity to promote the city now that the marriage barrier has fallen.
“You know, we were so excited,” visitors’ bureau spokesperson Christa Ritchie told the station. “We were like, ‘We are ready to come up with a campaign that welcomes LGBT travelers here – welcomes them to have weddings here.’”
Persuading LGBT travelers to visit new cities and states is the first step in convincing them to become a permanent part of the community. And, since LGBT residents tend to revitalize neighborhoods, it’s smart planning to woo them.
“Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., is doing an enormous reach out to transgender people – more than any other convention and visitors bureau has ever done,” Anderson-Minshall says. “And while it’s based on bringing in tourists, I know it’s having an impact on trans people who are considering relocating, retiring, or if lucky, making second homes there.”
Now that LGBT couples no longer have to worry if their marriages will be recognized in a new state, they can instead focus on the other qualities that appeal to them.
“I think eliminating the need to live in a place with civil unions, domestic partnership, or marriage rights has made it so we can start to evaluate a location based on other issues, from racial and economic disparities to how good their public pre-schools are,” Anderson-Minshall says. “And that’s pretty thrilling to move to point B.”