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Iowa City ranks third “gayest city” in U.S.

BY HOLLY HINES | JANUARY 21, 2010 7:30 AM

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UI senior Nick Beatty said he would not have expected a small city in Iowa to rank as the third “gayest city” in the country.

But a recent article in The Advocate — a national magazine that covers news in the gay community — named Iowa City third in a list of 15 cities abundant with gay resources and residents.

Atlanta claimed the No. 1 spot, followed by Burlington, Vt.

A set of seven factors determined the rankings in the article, titled “Gayest Cities in America.”

Factors included same-sex couple households per capita, statewide marriage equality, and the number of gay elected officials.

Despite Beatty’s surprise, he said, the city deserves the ranking, and he’s never had a problem as a gay student on campus.

Beatty said people in Iowa tend to be friendly and open-minded.

He said Iowa City is gay-friendly in part because there are many prominent student groups at the UI, such as the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender and Allied Union. The union helped him adjust and meet people when he moved, he said.

“It’s certainly a place where you won’t feel alone,” he said, and the article may increase Iowa’s popularity as a destination for gay couples who don’t want to live in big cities.

But some aspects of the article concerned Turk Pierson, a student on the executive board of the Allied Union.

“The way that they ranked the article was not an acceptable way,” Pierson said, and the “gay dating and hookup profiles per single male population” factor reinforces the stereotype that gay males frequently use “hookup” websites.

But he agrees Iowa City is very gay-friendly, he said, and others he knows in the gay community have reacted positively to the title.

Many nonresidents are often surprised by how progressive Iowa City is, said Bridget Malone, the vice president of Connections, a local gay community organization.

The April 2009 Iowa Supreme Court ruling to legalize gay marriage contributes to her belief that Iowa City deserves the ranking, she said.

“That did a great deal to boost Iowa’s attractiveness as well as Iowa City’s,” she said.

The proximity of the UI also helps the city remain gay-friendly, she said.

Gay people tend to feel more welcome in university towns because many students come out in college, a place where people are often open to new things, Malone said.

She noted there are also many gay-affirming churches in Iowa City, a feature that increases the quality of life for gay people living here.

Malone said she feels comfortable going into any bar in Iowa City with her partner of 19 years, whether it’s considered a “gay bar” or not.

“Iowa City has been on the cutting edge of gay rights for a long time,” she said.


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