Forget San Francisco. Watch out, South Beach. Welcome to Gainesville.
In the February issue of Advocate, a monthly gay news and culture magazine, Gainesville was named the 11th gayest city in the nation.
The 15 cities that made the list were ranked according to a variety of factors, from same-sex couple households per capita to gay dating profiles per single male population.
Gainesville scored an 11 out of 15 for gay bars per capita, a shout-out to University Club on East University Avenue.
Jim Spangler has been running University Club with his son, Mark, for the past 20 years, providing locals with drag shows every Thursday through Saturday.
Spangler said he’s seen other gay bars open and close and credits University Club’s success to its friendly atmosphere.
“[I think it’s] the way we treat people, and our prices are right,” he said. “It’s not just a gay bar — anybody’s welcome.”
Advocate also ranked cities based on number of gay elected officials, for which Gainesville incorrectly received a zero.
Craig Lowe, city commissioner since 2003 and mayoral candidate, is open about his sexual orientation.
Though he understands the light nature of the article, he said the ranking by a national publication is positive attention for the city.
“What’s important is that Gainesville is a fair community,” he said. “In these times we can't afford to discard any talent or intellect ... We do want to be able to maximize the human resources that we have here … to give them the opportunity to contribute to Gainesville's future.”
But not everyone was excited about the town’s new fame.
“The fact that Gainesville was rated the 11th gayest city in the nation shows the depravity of our nation and the weakness of the church,” said Terry Jones, senior pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center. “We must, as a nation and a church, repent for such acts of sin against our community ... and return to the true gospel of truth, love and repentance."
But Pride Community Center of North Central Florida Co-President Terry Fleming is proud of the ranking.
“Gainesville is a remarkable community that recognizes the importance of diversity,” Fleming said.
“And it’s gratifying to see that others are recognizing what a great place [it] is to live [in].”
UF senior and Pride Student Union Vice President of Outreach Whitney Blake said she was “incredibly surprised but happily so” to hear of the ranking.
Originally from South Florida, Blake said part of the reason she chose to attend UF was for it’s progressiveness and strong LGBT representation.
“It’s like a progressive little pocket in North Central Florida,” she said. “I think Gainesville is very friendly.”
The top ten cities in order were Atlanta; Burlington, Vt.; Iowa City; Bloomington, Ind.; Madison, Wis.; New Orleans; Fort Lauderdale; Portland, Maine; Austin, Texas; and Seattle.