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As some elected officials across the country have started opening the doors to gay marriages, and President Bush announced his support for an amendment to ban them, the magnitude of the gay and lesbian population remains a market research conundrum. It is difficult to collect data on this market, as many respondents feel uncomfortable answering questions on sexuality. Only recently have researchers and the Census Bureau begun tracking this cohort.

Census 2000 reported just over 600,000 gay and lesbian households in the United States, (about 0.5 percent of households). The Human Rights Campaign says that estimate could be off by as much as 62 percent. More reliable estimates of gay, lesbian and transgender individuals range from 10.5 million to 26 million, or from 3.6 percent to 8.9 percent of the U.S. population.

A widely accepted estimate for total spending by this market is about $515 billion. Simmons Market Research Bureau reports the average income for gay men as $52,624 and $42,755 for lesbians.

Simmons says a survey on the market — sure to benefit from the firm's huge database — is due in the near future.

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