Salt Lake City doesn't have the most same-sex couple households or even the most LGBT book stores, but it is the "gayest" city in America, according to The Advocate magazine.
"While those unfamiliar with the Beehive State are likely to conjure images of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, far-less-oppressive-than-it-used-to-be Salt Lake City has earned its queer cred," writes Matthew Breen for The Advocate, a national magazine for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
The survey ignores obvious picks such as New York and San Francisco to rank "less expected" places in the third annual list, using admittedly "subjective" criteria, including teams in the Gay Softball World Series and the availability of nude yoga classes to anti-discrimination protections and openly LGBT elected officials. Points are divided by a city's population to give a per capita score.
Salt Lake City ranks high for having an LGBT bookstore, nude yoga class, a semifinalist in the International Mr. Leather competition (a men's beauty pageant featuring black-leather apparel) and frequent performances by LGBT-favored bands Gossip, the Cliks and the Veronicas.
"If we were having a more scientific survey, I don't know that we would choose these as indicators," says Valerie Larabee, director of the Utah Pride Center in Salt Lake City. "All humor aside, I think that our city has come a long way. If we were to rate the cities that have made the greatest amount of progress over the last 10 years, I think we certainly would rank among the top."
In 2009, Salt Lake City became the first in Utah to pass ordinances that forbid housing and employment discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. The city scored a landmark endorsement from the LDS Church, which opposes same-sex marriage. And a dozen Utah cities and counties followed the capital's lead. Salt Lake City also has Utah's only mutual-commitment registry to recognize the partnerships of same-sex couples.
The Advocate overlooked two points Salt Lake City should have earned for having anti-discrimination protections and an openly gay elected official City Councilman Stan Penfold.
Penfold thinks the recognition is good for Salt Lake City.
"Nationally, people just can't imagine that we're an LGBT-friendly community, and I think this really breaks that stereotype of what people think Salt Lake is like and what Utah is like," Penfold says. "It just has always impressed me how embracing Salt Lake City people are of differences in culture, and I think that works for all kinds of minority populations."
Numbers from the 2010 Census shows Salt Lake City and Utah have had an uptick in the number of households headed by same-sex couples. In fact, Salt Lake City ranks No. 3 nationally among mid-size cities for its rate of gay and lesbian couples (17.3 per thousand households). First place went to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which came in fourth in The Advocate's list of 'gayest' cities.
The 'gayest' cities in 2012
Ignoring such obvious spots as New York and San Francisco, national LGBT-interest magazine The Advocate has named its top 10 "gayest" cities in America.
1 • Salt Lake City
2 • Orlando, Fla.
3 • Cambridge, Mass.
4 • Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
5 • Seattle
6 • Ann Arbor, Mich.
7 • St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minn.
8 • Knoxville, Tenn.
9 • Atlanta
10 • Grand Rapids, Mich.