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UCLA study pinpoints which cities, states have the most gay parents

Gay couple Jeffrey Parsons (R) and Chris Hietikko pose with their son Henry Hietikko-Parsons in the garden of their house in New York on May 01, 2008.
Gay couple Jeffrey Parsons (R) and Chris Hietikko pose with their son Henry Hietikko-Parsons in the garden of their house in New York on May 01, 2008.

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Can you guess which U.S. city has the highest rate of gay residents who are parents? Los Angeles? San Francisco maybe? Nope, it's Salt Lake City, Utah. 

Now can you guess the state with the highest rate of gay parents? California? Wrong again, it's Mississippi. 

UCLA researcher Gary Gates took a new look at census data and found that small and often times more conservative towns like Visalia and Porterville, CA have higher concentrations of gay couples raising children.

"That's largely because in socially conservative areas, LGBT people tend to come out later in life," Gates says, "so they're more likely to have different sex relationship earlier in life which may have produced children."

Kristin Beasley is one of them. She and her partner Candi Hood grew up in the Visalia-Porterville area. But before they were out, they married men and had children. Now, however, they live together in nearby Reedley with the two youngest of their six children and have written about their experience in the book, From Privilege to Pride.

"Nobody comes to the Central Valley because they're gay. You can put that on a bumper sticker! 'Don't come to the Central Valley if you're gay,'" Beasley jokes. "But people move to the Central Valley because there are economic reasons to live here, they have family reasons to live here, or if they have children in urban centers where they've been out and living, they're moving back home to their extended family."

People like Beasley and Hood are also changing attitudes towards LGBT families in these conservative areas. "It is prompting these conversations in parts of the country that haven't had them," says Gates. "As people come to know their LGBT neighbors, they tend to become more supportive."

Anthony Maldonado and his partner Brian Albertoni both moved to Visalia several decades ago, themselves, and they found many people were open to them starting a family through adoption.

"We had social workers that came to our house, our bio was sent out immediately, and it was, they felt, an opportunity," says Maldonado, whose adopted son Lincoln is almost 4-years-old. "I felt that in San Francisco, watching what my friends are going through, [social workers] were much more critical. There is a much larger community up there, and many more couples wanting a child. In Visalia, I felt we had it much easier."

But Maldonado admits that, given the chance, he would definitely want to move to a bigger city. "I would like a diverse groups of families of every culture, and I feel that Visalia is still a little limited in that."

However Beasley plans to stay. "We can go blend in and become invisible in a dense city like LA and San Francisco, but here in the Central Valley, we refuse to be treated as 2nd class citizens."

INFOGRAPHIC: % of Same-sex Couples Raising Children in Top Metro Areas (MSAs)