Waymon Hudson

White House Looks to Include Same-Sex Unions in Census Count

Filed By Waymon Hudson | June 19, 2009 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Defense of Marriage Act, Obama and LGBT rights, same-sex unions, US Census

Big news out of the White House today. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Obama Administration is turning its back on a Bush interpretation of the Defense of Marriage Act that they said prohibited the release of the data on same sex unions.

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The administration has directed the Census Bureau to determine changes needed in tabulation software to allow for same-sex marriage data to be released early in 2011 with other detailed demographic information from the decennial count. The bureau historically hasn't released same-sex marriage data.

As the WSJ points out, this is the second time in a week that Obama has "signaled a policy change of interest to the gay community" after the memorandum earlier that gave some benefits to some federal employees.

It seems the growing anger from the LGBT community is starting to push the Administration to action.

Getting counted in the census is a huge step. Being counted means being visible and gives hard, official data on the community.

It remains to be seen how getting and categorizing this information will be accomplished. From issues of people coming out to the confusing mix of marriages, domestic partnerships, and civil unions, putting the data together could prove difficult.

An accurate statistical snapshot of legally married same-sex couples may be elusive. Before the White House's plan emerged, Howard Hogan, associate director for demographic programs at the Census Bureau, said data from its 2007 American Community Survey showed more than 340,000 same-sex couples as being in marriages. But according to data from Massachusetts, the only state that permitted gay marriages in 2007, about 11,000 marriage licenses were issued for same-sex couples.

In the past, the Census Bureau took amazing steps to not only not count our community, but create false information to fit into the their narrow definition of "married couples", including changing the gender of some who reported themselves as same-sex married couples.

The original plan for handling these marriages in the 2010 Census was controversial among some statisticians and gay activists. Following procedures employed in 2000, the bureau had planned to use a computer program that recategorized spouses in same-sex marriages as unmarried partners. For the 1990 count, the bureau simply altered the gender designation of one partner.

This is a huge and substantial step from the White House. Hard statistics on our relationships could come in very handy in our fights for equality and more importantly show what an integral part we are to American society.

This is why it is important that we stay engaged and hold our leaders accountable to our cause. When we begin to get organized and speak with a unified voice, they notice. I truly hope this just another early step from the Administration. We have to keep dragging them in the right direction and get things accomplished.

Keep the pressure on!


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Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 19, 2009 10:45 AM

Waymon, the first thing I thought when I heard this on the news today is that there will be a number of couples who will choose to under report their partnerships out of fear of government intrusion in their lives, or ethnic, cultural or religious reasons.

Are we 3% of the total population or 5% of the total population or 7%? Percentages among Caucasians, African Americans, Hispanics and so on.

This is important because, (depending upon how the data is safeguarded) statehouse lawmakers could get their hands on it and in parts of the states where we are few in number can more easily choose to ignore us completely. I have never trusted the promise that the information is protected from other branches of government. Perhaps it comes from too many years of lies from the government.

We need every single person who cares about our lives being counted to get involved in this! We've been pushing on this issue for months and we are making progress. But we need to keep the pressure up! Help make sure that the Obama Administration does not make our lives, our families invisible! For more information on how to make your voice heard go to:
http://www.thetaskforce.org/activist_center/action_alerts/aa_census_032009

I agree, Rea! And thanks to the Task Force for all the hard work they've put into this...

I guess it would take an act of Congress to count trans people, too.

I wonder about that as well, Monica. I haven't heard any real mention of trans inclusion in the census yet...

I wish that we could get accurate counts on the presence of LGBT people in our society.
Just a set of check off identity boxes, they ask us about race and ethnicity so why not these factors?

My one concern with this is that it would still under-report because for households parents fill out the census forms for the whole family. If a child is LGBT and is not out to their parents or is and the parents are worried about some kind of recrimination or government intrusion, then the box will not be checked.

Does anyone know who's been working on this? Was is GLAD?

Rick Sours | June 23, 2009 9:23 AM

From a governmental point of view; numbers are so
important. Whenever any decision is made someone
always look at "the figures" either to approve or
reject any decision.