ABC News on Campus reporter Loren Grush blogs from the University of Texas:
The Advocate, a national magazine that covers GLBT issues, ranked the 15 most gay friendly cities in the United States — Atlanta, Georgia was at the top of the list. But the city of Austin, a liberal enclave in conservative Texas, ranked 9th.
The author of the article, Michael Albo, ranked the cities on a point system that measured figures including the amount of same-sex couple households per capita, statewide marriage equality, and the number of gay elected officials. Some other criteria for the rankings consisted of gay bars per capita and gay films in Netflix favorites.
He attributes most of the rankings to the 2000 census, which he describes as the “backbone” of the list. The census lists cities with the highest percentage of gay and lesbian households, all of which are on Albo’s list, if not in the same order.
Albo, who calls himself an amateur sociologist, says that the list was not meant to be taken too seriously.
“Since I’m not a professional statistician, and this was not a scientifically proven list, I don’t have some legitimate reason why Bloomington was ranked higher than Austin,” Albo said.
“Some people have reacted that their cities are way too lame or boring to be on this list,” Albo said. “But like I said, this was simply a playful statistical analysis, not a deeply cultural study.”
Chad Peevy, president of the Austin Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, cites Austin’s varied population as a reason for the city's ranking.
“I think what sets us apart is really our city and county government,” said Peevy. “We have a diverse constituency in Austin, and we elect politicians who are LGBT friendly, which really makes a difference.”
Peevy also attributes Austin’s ranking to its economic sector.
“We have many companies here that are favorable to our community,” said Peevy. “They keep our community employed and keep them happy. We are also lucky to have more than 30 non-profit organizations that service the LGBT community in Austin.”
The city also boasts many activities in which the gay community can take part; including Austin’s pride parade, which is currently the largest LGBT event in central Texas.
Austin resident Daryl Putnam has been living with his partner in Austin for five and a half years. He says it was an interesting transition for them when they first moved from the Texas bay area.
“Back where we lived, there was a gay center, kind of like a concentration of gay owned businesses and restaurants,” said Putnam. “Whereas in Austin, there really isn’t one. Then what we learned was that there really didn’t need to be one because it was pretty gay friendly no matter where you lived.”
Putnam, who has been with his partner for 25 years, also notes that the city’s openness is not shared with the rest of the state.
“It has a lot to do with the university and just the culture here,” said Putnam. “Austin certainly is a little island. In the rest of the state, no one really cares that you’re gay, they just don’t want you to talk about it. But in Austin, I’ve been so impressed with how much people want to get involved with the gay community.”
Albo hopes the list will increase visibility of the gay community.
“I just hope this shows that there is an actual population of gays and lesbians out there beyond the usual zones, and therefore, nationwide equal rights is an inevitability,” said Albo. “It proves that LGBT cliché – ‘we’re everywhere.’ Regardless of setbacks, there is an unstoppable forward momentum of gay and lesbian acceptance and equality in America.”