Number of Arizona same-sex couples up

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PHOENIX – U.S. census numbers reveal the primarily conservative Arizona has one of the highest populations of same-sex couples living together.

The percentage of gay couples cohabitating is roughly the same percentage as in New York, which just legalized gay marriage, but that doesn't mean Arizona is headed for big changes in our own laws.

Change can be slow but these numbers have some same sex couples optimistic that this typically conservative state may soon recognize its own growing gay community.

“This would probably not be our first choice to live. We’d probably move if our business wasn't here and our family,” said John Fagundes.

John and Jared Cranford have been partners in business as well as in life for 10 years. They are also parents to 5-year-old Ayden and 3-year-old Taylor Rae. Despite the state's politics, Phoenix is home.

“When I'm walking around I feel normal I see other same sex couples with their families and children and I fit right in I feel right at home,” said Cranford.

That may be, in part, due to the growing number of same sex households.

According to 2010 U.S. census data there are roughly 21,000 same-sex couples in Arizona. That's a 70 percent increase from 2000.

In New York there are 65,000 same-sex couples. That's 40 percent more than in 2000 and both states now average 9 same sex couples per 1,000 households.

That is hard to believe since New York is typically thought of as liberal and Arizona conservative.

“I think there's a lot of hope we are going to see changes even bigger than we have in the last 10-20 years,” said Fagundes. I think we will see even bigger changes in the next 5-10.”

While other places like Vermont, California and New York seem more accepting, “We love the weather and we love the business climate here,” said Tony Felice of the Greater Phoenix Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. “Politically speaking it seems Arizona is very intolerant, but in fact, here in Arizona you can be anything you want to be.”

Tony says the business climate is totally different from the political climate. “Let's face it stable families are good for economical development. Stable families are great for banking, mortgage and real estate and everyone benefits from that.”

While metropolitan areas typically have more gay friendly people and businesses, according to the U.S. Census data, Bisbee had the highest percentage of same-sex couples in Arizona that is 21 per 1,000 households.

State data is slowly being evaluated and extrapolated. Of the 18 states analyzed thus far, it appears the number of same sex couples has jumped 47 percent in the last 10 years.

“The reality is when you get on the street and when you get to the people, the real people, they are a lot more tolerant than you'd believe,” said Felice, who unofficially married his partner in 2005. “There is a definite disconnect between the capital and the local community.”

John and Jared agree. “We're advancing you can still carry a gun but when it comes to same sex couples we are moving ahead slower than other places but with those statistics it's crazy to think how close we are to New York,” said Fagundes.