Gay marriage by the numbers

The Rev. Jeff Bert of the Metropolitan Community Church joins protesters outside the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco to protest Proposition 8 in January. BANG/ZUMApress.com.

The Rev. Jeff Bert of the Metropolitan Community Church joins protesters outside the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco to protest Proposition 8 in January. BANG/ZUMApress.com.

The news: California’s ban on same-sex marriage, known as Proposition 8, went on trial in January.

Behind the news: In Cook County, households with gay couples represent a small fraction of total households. A Chicago Reporter analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data shows that nearly 11,000 Cook County households had a “householder” with a same-sex partner, constituting roughly 0.6 percent of the county’s nearly 2 million households.

Danny Kopelson, director of communications and public affairs at Center on Halsted, a North Side organization providing services to the gay community, said that even if the number of people in same-sex relationships is relatively small, the gay community’s push for rights like marriage is still valid.

“If everyone is so afraid of same-sex partnerships, and there are such a small number, why not just let it happen?” he said. With so few same-sex couples, the financial cost to employers of new spousal benefits shouldn’t be excessive, he added.

Kopelson suggested the Reporter’s findings might be underestimating the actual number of same-sex couples. Fear of discrimination might keep some gays from identifying their sexual orientation on official forms.

Fundamentally, legalizing gay marriage is a matter of principle, he said. “It’s called equality, whether it’s for 1 percent, 20 percent or 50 percent of people.”

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