SF same-sex couples increasingly going without kids, census shows

When Amos Lim and his husband decided to adopt a baby, they never even considered leaving San Francisco, the city that defiantly allowed them to marry in an act of civil disobedience.

Their decision has been reinforced every time they’ve checked out a preschool for their daughter, and mentioned that they were a gay couple to make sure the school would be OK with that.

“The response is, ‘Um, we’re in San Francisco. You don’t have to even tell us that. It really doesn’t matter to us,’” Lim said. “It’s an amazing feeling that you don’t have to hide and you don’t feel alone.”

But when he was told that according to U.S. census data released in recent days, there are only 857 same-sex couples with children in The City in 2010, he wasn’t that surprised.

“When you go to the playground in our neighborhood, we are kind of the standout, because we’re the only gay parents that go there,” he said.

The census data — which for the first time allowed gay couples to identify themselves as a family — revealed that San Francisco has 7,530 gay male couples living together, but of those, just 332 — or 4.4 percent — have children. Of The City’s 2,754 lesbian couples, 525 have children — about 19 percent.

Those figures are far lower than the statewide averages. Of the 64,625 gay male couples in California, about 18 percent of them had children. About 32 percent of the 60,891 lesbian couples across the state have children.

While this may defy stereotypes, it is consistent with prior research, UCLA demographer Gary Gates said.

That research showed that about 80 percent of the children raised in same-sex households come from prior heterosexual relationships, while less than 20 percent come from adoption, fostering or surrogacy.

A typical situation might be a gay man who had a child with a woman early in life, but now is raising that child with a male partner.

“Those families are not the types of families that live in San Francisco — they’re in the Central Valley,” Gates said.

In fact, he said, a map of the concentration of same-sex couples in California is “almost the polar opposite” of a map of the concentration of same-sex couples with children.

Many San Francisco same-sex couples also leave The City for the same factors as opposite-sex couples do, said Chris Carrington, a professor of sexuality studies at San Francisco State University.

“The schools, the space, the cost, the playgrounds — those things are going to be equally true if you’re a gay male couple or a straight couple,” he said.

Those factors motivated Tom Richard and his partner to move to Marin County after they had a son through surrogacy two years ago. The couple had lived in Bernal Heights, but moved when their son was about 6 months old.

He and his husband have been warmly welcomed into their new neighborhood — and have even been invited to participate in the Mothers of Southern Marin group. But he said they have not met any other gay parents.

“Maybe in The City, gay families are not as prevalent — but they’re extremely well-organized,” Richard said.


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