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      Study: highest percentage of SC gay couples live in Myrtle Beach

      A MB business hangs a gay pride flag outside it's storefront.

      "I think Myrtle Beach is a giant melting pot," says Micki Strickland. She's one of the openly gay women living in Myrtle Beach. "People tend to migrate to this area and that makes people more open minded."

      According to a Williams Institute 2010 survey, the melting pot Strickland referred to had the highest density of gay couples in South Carolina. Myrtle Beach ranked the highest with 11.67 gay couples per 1,000 households.

      "That's surprising to hear," says Wesley Tyler. "I wouldn't have guessed that was the case at all." At this time, Tyler is in a open relationship with another man.

      He says while he's surprised, he believes Myrtle Beach is a more accepting place to the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered community. "I assume we are slightly more progressive because of the outsiders that live here."

      The Williams Institute is a think tank at UCLA. The survey shows, while Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach rank 1 and 5 respectively for cities with most gay couples per capita in the state, Horry County ranks fifth behind Jasper, Bamberg, Charleston and Hampton Counties.

      "Myrtle Beach brings a lot of people from the North, Midwest and West coast," says Strickland. "Those people tend to be a little more open minded than smaller towns. In small cities, you may be worried a lot more about what your neighbor thinks."

      "We have so many tourist that come to Myrtle Beach you can almost consider it a big city," says Tyler.

      The survey shows South Carolina with an average of 6.4 couples per 1,000 households. That's a 16 percent increase from 2000. More than 66 percent of the gay couples in the state are women and 34 percent are male. 25 percent of gay couples raise families in the state.

      Myrtle Beach is far behind the most dense populations of gays in one city. Provincetown, Massachusetts reported 163 same-sex couples per 1000 households.

      Counted as a state the District of Columbia ranks highest with 19.3 for every 1000 households and Vermont is the number one ranked true state with 10.9 same-sex couples per 1000 households.

      The report does not have data on Mississippi, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Tennessee at this time, but the Williams Institute believes when that data is release it is unlikely to change the states ranked at the top.