The number of gay and lesbian couples adopting children over the past decade has nearly tripled.

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that about 21,740 gay couples adopted in 2009, up from 6,477 in 2000, and 32,571 adopted children were living with gay couples in 2009, up from 8,310 in 2000. The figures come from an analysis of Census Bureau data by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.

β€œIt's a stratospheric increase. It's like going from zero to 60,” Miami attorney Elizabeth Schwartz, who has coordinated adoptions for gay families, told the paper. β€œI think many really dreamed of doing this but it wasn't something they ever thought would become a reality.”

Adoption by gay couples flourished in the last decade despite laws in many states which either prohibit or attempt to discourage such adoptions.

But last year, an appeals court found Florida's outright ban on gay couples adopting to be unconstitutional. The state decided not to appeal.

While Florida's law was seen as the harshest, social conservatives in states where gay marriage is prohibited have pushed for laws limiting adoption to married couples, arguing that children need a mom and a dad.

Such tactics, however, are also failing. Earlier this year, the Arkansas Supreme Court overturned such a law, put in place by voters in 2008.

States with the highest number of such adoptions are Massachusetts, California, New York and Texas.

(Related: Two gay men raising 12 children in Arizona.)