Is Utah’s capital city the gay parenting capital of the United States?

Posted at 8:50 PM, May 21, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-22 00:47:54-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- A new study indicates Salt Lake City has the highest rate of same-sex couples raising children, and city leaders aren't surprised; they said Salt Lake City has paved the way for becoming a welcoming place for the LGBT community.

A recent study done by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law indicates one out of four same-sex couples in Salt Lake City are raising children.

A conservative group said the culture in Utah is family friendly, so it's not necessarily shocking, but gay couples who spoke with Fox 13 said, while the study is promising, there's still a long way to go when it comes to Utah's adoption laws.

Brandon Mark is a same-sex parent with his partner Weston Clark, and he said the survey results are promising.

"It's a little bit surprising to see that Salt Lake City out of all place has such a high percentage of same-sex couples raising children, but it certainly is encouraging," he said.

Brandon and Weston adopted their now 3-year-old son Xander at birth in California.

Russell Baker-Gorringe, who has been legally married to his partner since 2005, was once a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he was married to his wife for 25 years. He shared his perspective on the study's results.

"The fact that that would take place behind the Zion curtain, I would say yeah, that surprises me, but at the same time we are raised to believe in family," he said.

Together Russell and his partner have six children and eight grandchildren.

The idea however of having two mothers or two fathers is something conservative groups like the Sutherland Institute have said doesn't fit with what's best for raising a family.

"The best environment for children on a whole is with a mother and a father," said Derek Monson, director of public policy at the Sutherland Institute.

At the same time, it was Salt Lake City that launched the first ever domestic registry in 2008. Since then, 93 people have taken part in the program, which recognizes domestic partnerships, gay or not.

"We  know that Salt Lake City has a really strong and healthy LGBT community, and we're known for that, it was just a year ago that The Advocate rated us as the gayest city in America, and we certainly fly that flag with pride," said David Everitt, who is the Chief of Staff for the Salt Lake City Mayor's Office.

Salt Lake City was also the first to adopt an ordinance protecting LGBT individuals from discrimination in housing and in the workplace, and while there's been progress, some same-sex couples said it's about social acceptance and the state's adoption laws should reflect that.

"Adoption laws are about the well-being of children, and it's pretty clear whether you look at it from a research standpoint, a social sciences standpoint or otherwise the best environment for a child is with a mother and a mother, a mother and father intact, in a home, and our laws reflect that reality," Monson said.

The state statute as written means people who are co-habituating can't legally adopt, but it doesn't specify gender preference. That means only single people or married couples can adopt in Utah.