By Stephanie Siek, CNN
(CNN) - Salt Lake City, Utah, is known for breathtaking mountain scenery, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the 2002 Winter Olympics.
But today it was also named the Gayest City in America by The Advocate magazine.
The Advocate ranked cities according to its own admittedly nonscientific criteria, including the number of gay and lesbian bookstores, elected officials who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, and some edgier metrics like the number of International Mr. Leather competition semifinalists and the presence of nude yoga classes. This year’s list intended to examine cities that are outside the usual orbit of San Francisco, Boston, Miami and New York, and came up with several surprises - Grand Rapids, Michigan, Knoxville, Tennessee. Even Little Rock, Arkansas, ranked 11 out of 15.
Salt Lake City LGBTQ advocates were pleasantly surprised by the rankings.
“Well, you know, we’re all very proud of our community here, and we’ve done a lot of growing and empowering of each other and our allies in the community,” said Valerie Larabee, the executive director of the Utah Pride Center, but “we probably wouldn’t have a higher ranking if the homework was done … We don’t have naked yoga, or at least none of us know about it.”
(For the record: The Advocate counted one nude yoga class there, and one Mr. Leather semifinalist, too.)
According to 2010 Census data analyzed by UCLA’s Williams Institute, 15.36 out of every 1,000 households in Salt Lake City are headed by a same-sex couple. Salt Lake City ranks 81st out of 1,415 cities nationwide in its number of same-sex couples per capita.
The same analysis found that Little Rock had 7.51 gay or lesbian couples for every 1,000 households, ranking it 392nd.
Salt Lake City was ranked higher than several cities many would presume to be gay-friendlier, like Denver, Austin, and Atlanta. But Larabee said that Salt Lake’s top ranking shouldn’t overshadow the discrimination and lack of acceptance that many LGBTQ Utahns still face.
“I appreciate that there’s some humor in the selections, in the indices that were used, but we shouldn’t kid ourselves,” Larabee said. “We, like many of these communities, still have some issues that need to be addressed. While we have a thriving community here, we’re united because we have to be.”
Randi Romo heads the Center for Artistic Revolution in Little Rock, which serves as the state’s LGBTQ organization. She was also bemused by the city’s inclusion.
“Little Rock can be friendly, but we still have a lot of the religious right wing rhetoric that feeds into everything,” Romo said. “Arkansas is one of the only states in the nation that doesn’t have a civil rights commission that can receive and adjudicate civil rights complaints. There are no local or state ordinances to protect [LBGTQ people] against discrimination.”
Here are the top 15 "gayest" cities, as ranked by The Advocate:
15. Denver, Colorado
14. Long Beach, California
13. Austin, Texas
12. Portland, Oregon
11. Little Rock, Arkansas
10. Grand Rapids, Michigan
9. Atlanta, Georgia
8. Knoxville, Tennessee
7. St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota
6. Ann Arbor, Michigan
5. Seattle, Washington
4. Fort Lauderdale, Florida
3. Cambridge, Massachusetts
2. Orlando, Florida
1. Salt Lake City, Utah