TUPELO – Mississippi leads the nation in the percentage of same-sex couples raising children, according to a national report issued Thursday.
Although the state ranks 41st nationwide in its overall ratio of same-sex couples, the portion of those who raise children outranks the rest of the country.
Nearly 6,300 gay or lesbian couples live together statewide, with one-third of them raising children, according to the Williams Institute, a leading think tank in the field of sexual orientation and gender identity issues in law and public policy.
The institute this summer released state-by-state snapshots of same-sex couple demographics based on 2010 census data. Mississippi’s was issued Thursday, along with those of four other states.
It also revealed that Northeast Mississippi has a high concentration of gay or lesbian households relative to the rest of the state: Tupelo ranks fifth statewide among all cities with at least 50 same-sex couples, Marshall County ranks second and Itawamba County fifth statewide among all counties.
The numbers are “not really surprising to me,” said Gary J. Gates with the Williams Institute. “Child-rearing among same-sex couples is higher in more socially conservative areas like the South where … people come out later in life and are more likely to have had a child with a different-sex partner before they were out.”
Gates said most of the children in these homes come from one of the parent’s previous relationships with a different-sex partner.
“In the absence of some type of partnership recognition,” Gates said, “these families may have less access to health insurance and guardianship rights to their children.”
Those issues face Tupelo resident Jennifer Falkey, who plans to marry her partner, Emily, and one day have children. The two will tie the knot in several days, although their union won’t be recognized in Mississippi.
Instead, they’ll draft a contract establishing some of the protections automatically given by law to married couples. Because Mississippi prohibits joint adoption for same-sex couples, Falkey and her partner will weigh other parenting options.
“I think we could use maybe a little more acceptance from folks,” Falkey said. “Just because I’m not like you doesn’t mean I’m a threat.”
Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal