When census forms arrived in early 2010, Laura Latimer eagerly filled it out and noted that she shares a household with her wife, Ellen Paul.
They married in California, but the state of Colorado does not recognize the union. The Census Bureau, however, wanted to know about it.
It was really nice to be able to acknowledge my relationship in that way, said Latimer, a Durango resident.
Latimer and Paul were among the 300 couples in the Four Corners counties of La Plata, Montezuma, Archuleta, San Juan and Dolores who told the Census Bureau they are living with a same-sex partner, according to numbers released Thursday.
A think tank that tracks same-sex census numbers placed La Plata County fourth in the state for the proportion of families headed by a same-sex couple.
Its possible that the true number is higher, said Greg Weiss, chairman of the Four Corners Gay and Lesbian Alliance for Diversity.
I think there are probably still a few couples out there who for whatever reasons are nervous about reporting they are in a same-sex relationship, Weiss said.
However, the number sounds roughly accurate to Weiss. He said social and political changes in recent years have made gay and lesbian people more willing to identify themselves. The state Legislature has passed anti-discrimination laws and allowed gay parents to adopt children.
This year, the Legislature debated a civil-unions bill for gays and lesbians, but it failed in a House committee after passing the Senate.
Over the last four years, especially with the recent push in the Colorado Legislature to get some sort of recognition, more people are willing to come out and say theyre in a same-sex relationship, Weiss said.
Thursdays numbers could make a political splash. Out Front Colorado, a gay newspaper, reported Thursday that the six House Republicans who voted to kill the civil-unions bill in committee represent about 3,000 same-sex families.
The census asked about gay relationships in 2000, but comparisons with previous censuses are not possible because the Census Bureau has changed the way it collects the data, according to the Williams Institute at the University of California.
In the Four Corners, same-sex couples were concentrated in La Plata County, although not necessarily in Durango. The city had 58 same-sex couples, compared to 184 in the county overall.
The census found 72 same-sex couples in Montezuma County and 46 in Archuleta County.
Statewide, the census found 16,114 same-sex households, or 0.8 percent of all Colorado families. The proportion was the same in Southwest Colorado. San Juan County was one of just two counties that reported no same-sex couples.
In Colorado, 3,670 of those same-sex families were raising children. In the Four Corners counties, 113 children were living in 61 different same-sex families, according to the census.
Latimer and Paul did not have children on census day, April 1, 2010. Their son, Alexander, was born in June.
Well have to get him next time, Latimer said.