RICHMOND – The number of same-sex households has grown significantly in Virginia over the last decade, U.S. Census figures show.
Among Virginia's 173,684 unmarried-partner households, there are 9,732 male same-sex households, up 40 percent from 2000, according to the 2010 Census. There are 10,080 female same-sex households, up 60 percent over the last decade.
Gary Gates, a demographer at the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, said that there might have been a small influx of gay couples to Virginia or an increase in gay Virginians living together. But he said the increase largely stems from more willingness of gay and lesbian couples over the last decade to disclose their sexual orientation.
"In the past they would have reported themselves as roommates, but are now spouses or unmarried partners," said Mr. Gates, who studies demographic characteristics of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered population.
He said that traditionally conservative areas are reflecting more growth in reported same-sex households because places such as Arlington County and Alexandria already were reporting their same-sex status in the previous census counts.
Arlington's male-partnered households climbed 3 percent, from 808 to 835, for example; the number of female-partnered households rose 16 percent, from 287 to 333.
In Virginia Beach, there were 516 lesbian households, up 57 percent from 328 in 2000. Male-partnered households grew 41 percent, from 288 to 407. Roanoke County saw a 49 percent growth in same-sex male households – from 59 to 88 – and an 83 percent increase in same-sex female households – from 83 to 152.
Among Virginia's male same-sex households, 36 percent have children under 18 living in the residence. Among female same-sex households, the figure is 56 percent, 2010 census figures show.
Equality Virginia executive director James Parrish said that the results take into account a concerted effort to gather accurate counts of gay and lesbian households and families statewide in the 2010 Census. The gay-rights advocacy group and others encouraged Virginians to participate in the census, and more people became comfortable doing so.
"We're showing some progress in the nation and state over the last decade," Mr. Parrish said. "There are gay and lesbian households in every locality in Virginia. People feel more comfortable in living a more open life."
Still, underreporting likely exists statewide because many same-sex couples remain unwilling to risk facing social stigma and discrimination, both Mr. Parrish and Mr. Gates said.
The total number of households in Virginia grew 14 percent, from 2.7 million to 3.1 million, over the decade.