For anyone who doesn't speak statistics or computer programming, decennial census reports conducted by the by the U.S. Census Bureau can be rather confusing.
''It's just a bunch of lines and numbers,'' says Lee Badgett, research director at the Charles R. Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, who along with a team of three others, extracted the data included in the Maryland census to illustrate in plain English what the 11,243 same-sex couples living in the state ''look like,'' as of 2000, for the very first time.
''Nobody has seen these data before for Maryland,'' Badgett says. ''We've done these census reports for other states, and for the country as a whole, but this is the first time that we've had an in-depth look at what the same-sex couples in Maryland look like.''
''Same-sex couples have a lot in common with other families that are headed by [heterosexual] married couples in particular,'' she says. ''That's mainly who we compared them to. There's a great deal of diversity, both in terms of where people live, but also in terms of their race and ethnicity.
''These are folks who are very actively involved in the economy. About 1 in 5 couples is raising kids under 18 right now, so they look a lot like married couples, in a lot of those kind of ways. One of the big differences is course, they're not allowed to marry.''
Part of the reason behind analyzing Maryland's census data at this time stems from a ''fiscal analysis report,'' also conducted by the Williams Institute, that suggests marriage among same-gender couples in Maryland would financially benefit the state.
''We estimated...based on what's happened in Massachusetts and Vermont, and some other states, that about half of the couples in Maryland will marry in the first few years,'' Badgett says, adding that the estimated additional revenue would be more than $90 million per year for the state.
''You might remember back in 2004, where in that one-month window couples in San Francisco could go and get married? Couples from 46 different states went to san Francisco to get married, so we think it's reasonable to assume that a large number of same-sex couples would go to a state that would let them marry.''
According to Badgett, after finalizing financial losses, in joint-filing and inheritance-tax fees being lifted for legally wedded couples, gains such as marriage costs would put the state of Maryland on top with a $3.2 million gain.
''Concerns that it's too expensive to give same-sex couples the right to marry, don't hold up,'' Badgett says. ''There's no reason to be concerned about that. If anything, the effect will be positive both on the economy and the state budget.''
The Williams Institute has also released a ''Census Snapshot'' of D.C., a study that provides demographic and economic information about same-sex couples in the District, led by Gary J. Gate, senior research fellow with the Williams Institute.
''Census data show us that D.C. is one of the 'gayest' places in the nation,'' Gate says. ''The proportion of same-sex couples is twice the national average. But consistent with the rest of the nation, same-sex couples raising children in D.C. are economically disadvantaged compared to their married counterparts.''
To view the reports, or for more information, visit www.law.ucla.edu/williamsinstitute.