Deeper Data: A New Study Shows Crucial Regional Differences in LGBT Life

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The New Republic
Sponsored by Credit Suisse
February 17, 2015

Brad Sears, executive director of the Williams Institute, a branch of UCLA School of Law, has spent the last 15 years encouraging policymakers and activists to forget everything they think they know. He wants them to consider data instead of turning to their assumptions.

Sears directs research about the LGBT community at the Williams Institute. When he began his work 15 years ago, he was part of a small group of researchers confronting a behemoth national conversation. “It’s harder for people to imagine this today, but if you go back to 2000, there were a number of assertions being made in policy debates about LGBT people that weren’t really backed with any research or evidence,” Sears explains. “While there had been some advocacy organizations that had tried to set up research arms, there wasn’t a lot of credibility for the research coming out of those institutions.”

You might think the Williams Institute’s research is lofty and academic, considering its pedigree. But in fact, Sears and his team started their work with the basics, answering questions about the locations of same-sex couples. “One of the things we’re best known for is a map that shows the density by county of same-sex couples throughout the United States,” Sears says. “There were people in Congress at that time who would say, ‘There are no gay people in my district.’ So to have a map that showed almost all counties in the United States had same-sex couples identifying was really powerful.”

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