We're Here, And We're Also Queer

If you drew up a list of gay-friendly states, Alabama, which still treats homosexual conduct as a crime, and Utah, home of a large, conservative Mormon community, probably wouldn't be near the top. But according to a new UCLA Law School study, the gay population is booming in both places. In the past 17 years, Utah's gay population has shot from the 38th largest in the country to 14th. Birmingham, Ala., meanwhile, is now home to all-night gay bars and pride parades; the South's gay tally has outpaced any other region. "What many of the bigger cities like New York were experiencing during the late '60s and '70s is happening here now, but quietly," says Danny Upton, the head of Equality Alabama.

Growing acceptance of homosexuality is a big factor, says Gary Gates, the study's author, but so is money. Gay and lesbian travel accounts for $55 billion of the U.S. market, according to a survey last year, and the bigger the community, the more gay tourists will flock. That's why travel bureaus in cities like Dallas, Las Vegas and Tempe, Ariz., are pouring money into luring gay tourists. Cash, it seems, is one thing everyone can agree on.