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Correction to This Article
This article about the growing numbers of gay and lesbian families living in the country's suburbs was missing two paragraphs and part of a third in some editions. The story is reprinted in full in today's Metro section and is available online at www.washingtonpost.com/metro.

Just Another Way to Be Suburban

In Pr. George's, Same-Sex Couples Grow in Number, Visibility

Moises helps out as his parents, Mark Knight and Mario Cisneros, clean up the kitchen. Cisneros said the family's sense of belonging in Mount Rainier has been nurtured by the schools. "Basically, they opened their arms," he said. He has been president of the Mount Rainier Elementary School PTO for five years.
Moises helps out as his parents, Mark Knight and Mario Cisneros, clean up the kitchen. Cisneros said the family's sense of belonging in Mount Rainier has been nurtured by the schools. "Basically, they opened their arms," he said. He has been president of the Mount Rainier Elementary School PTO for five years. (Photos By Andrea Bruce -- The Washington Post)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 29, 2009

They call their home "Serendipity." In 2002, when Alicia Wilson and Susan Guardado were looking for a house, they almost lost out on the Cape Cod on a leafy cul-de-sac in Hyattsville. Another couple had more money, but Wilson and Guardado had a better feel for the things that mean the world to people.

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They put a contingency in their bid: They would buy only if the owner, an elderly widow who had spent a half-hour showing them the house and 40 minutes showing off her garden, listed every plant and flower.

Guardado and Wilson won the house and, leaving the District behind, folded into a roughly five-mile corridor of Prince George's County that in the past decade has become home to a growing population of gay and lesbian families.

Guardado and Wilson are part of a pattern emerging across the United States, according to Gary J. Gates, a demographer with the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law and author of the Gay and Lesbian Atlas. Gay and lesbian families are showing up in greater numbers in the nation's suburbs and rural areas. The trend is a product both of migration from the cities and of cultural changes that have encouraged same-sex couples to become more visible.

Hyattsville and some of the surrounding communities appear to be well ahead of the curve. In 2000, same-sex couples made up about 0.6 percent of households in Prince George's and nationally, according to the U.S. Census. In Hyattsville, they already accounted for 1.3 percent of households, more than double the national average, and in nearby Mount Rainier, the figure was nearly 1 percent.

Residents said those percentages have almost certainly increased in the past nine years. And in 2004, Mount Rainier became one of a handful of cities with a gay majority in leadership positions.

From 2000 to 2007, there was a 25 percent increase in the number of same-sex couples in urban areas, including inner suburbs, and a 51 percent increase in rural areas, said Gates, citing Census Bureau data.

The increases, he said, represent the arrival of gay men and lesbians at a less marginalized point, where being gay is just one identity among many. It's gay as pedestrian bicycle safety committee member or PTA president. It's gay as, yawn, suburban, which isn't news to the gay people quietly going about their lives but is, in many ways, evolutionary.

Wilson, 35, executive director of a community health center in Washington, and Guardado, 42, a physical therapist in Chevy Chase, were living on Capitol Hill when they decided it was time to start a family. They wanted a yard and an easy commute.

They initially searched for houses in the District and Takoma Park but were priced out of the market. They were urged to check out Hyattsville by friends, Candace Gingrich, sister of former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), and her partner at the time.

"It's the new, affordable Takoma Park. That's how I pitched it," said Gingrich, who lived in Hyattsville for seven years. The city of nearly 15,000 is more than 40 percent African American and 18 percent Hispanic, and Gingrich cited that diversity as an added bonus.

Gingrich said she has helped bring 10 or 11 lesbian couples to the city since 2000. She is considering a move back with her new partner.


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