Monday, October 22, 2001

Columbus welcomes gays

Census shows population growing fast; jobs, culture cited

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Franklin County has gained a reputation as being more friendly toward homosexuals than many other areas, and that attitude is reflected in the latest federal population figures.

        The county has at least 3,241 gay households, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. That number represents a 263 percent increase from 1990, much higher than the increase reported in any other Ohio county.

        The total undoubtedly is larger, but the Census figure represents only people willing to report their status and doesn't include gay people who live alone.

        Most of those households are in Columbus, which ranks 18th nationwide in the number of same-sex, domestic-partner households.

        But amid the tolerance, there are exceptions.

        More than 200 reports of anti-gay incidents ranging from vandalism to assaults were filed last year with the Columbus Division of Police. Rhonda Rivera, a 63-year-old gay pioneer, said she is proud of how far Columbus has come in 20 years.

        “I think Columbus is gay-friendly,” said Ms. Rivera, who now lives in New Mexico. “Truthfully, most big cities are nowadays. University towns are better; there's a more enlightened, flexible approach to life.

        “Columbus has gay bowling leagues, gay dancing, bridge clubs, motorcycle clubs, car clubs. You know Americans; they organize everything. Every kind of club you can think of, there's a subgroup in the community,” she said in a story published Sunday in the Columbus Dispatch.

        Diverse jobs, civil-service protection and large companies make Columbus appealing, said attorney Elliot Fishman.

        “Columbus is a great haven for gays and lesbians to live in,” Mr. Fishman said. “San Francisco is a mecca, but there's a lot here for a gay tourist to do.”


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