2010 census to report same-sex marriages

Although Maine voters made their state the 31st to reject gay marriage Tuesday, members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community are optimistic about gaining recognition in the 2010 census—the first to count same-sex couples.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s June announcement reflects President Barack Obama’s administration’s reinterpretation of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which was formerly understood to prohibit the release of same-sex marriage census data.

“The 2010 census is going to be a snapshot of the way America looks in 2010,” said Tony Jones, spokesperson for the U.S. Census Bureau in the Charlotte Region. He added that this adjustment reflects the need to “adapt to the change... in terms of how society and law have changed with respect to same-sex couples.”

The previous two census reports—when no states recognized gay marriage—counted same-sex married couples as either heterosexual couples or unmarried partners. In 2010, couples who see themselves as married will be reported as such said Derick Moore, a public affairs specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau.

The former policy was not a conspiracy to conceal same-sex relationships, said Seth Sanders, director of Duke’s Population Research Institute. He added that the census would likely have erred in either under-counting gay people who counted themselves as married or heterosexual couples who had incorrectly marked the sex of one person.

Still, the 2010 census decision will be a step toward better representing the population.

Janie Long, director of Duke’s Center for LGBT Life said that although she is not sure how significant the impact will be, it is a meaningful change.

“The census is making more visible a group of people that have been somewhat invisible,” she said.

But the 2010 numbers would only reflect same-sex married couples who are ready to be seen, Long said.

She said whether or not homosexual individuals indicate their marital status on the census will depend on “how secure they feel.” Couples living closeted lives or residing in states where gay marriage is not recognized could be less likely to report themselves as married, Long said.

Senior Viviana Santiago, president of Blue Devils United, expressed similar sentiments.

Although she said she is glad same-sex couples are being included, Santiago noted that some couples may be afraid their responses could expose them to discrimination.

Many in the LGBT community have said the 2010 census will not signify the culmination of the LGBT civil rights movement, but it makes it more difficult to ignore same-sex relationships.

“I think that the fact that we are being cited in the Census is an indicator that progressively, the country is more open-minded, more tolerant, more accepting and more focused on issues that are important to the LGBT community,” said N.C. Pride spokesperson Keith Hayes.

Not everyone is embracing the change. Jenny Tyree, an associate analyst for marriage at Focus on the Family—an organization that defines marriage as being strictly between a man and a woman—said the issue could result in a political redefinition of marriage.

“It changes the structure of marriage from a relationship vitally centered on children to a relationship centered on the wants and desires of adults,” Tyree said.

But some members of the LGBT community do not think the change will alter the perception of marriage enough. The census will report homosexual couples in a separate category from heterosexual married couples.

Santiago and BDU Treasurer Ollie Wilson, a sophomore, said they hope the census will eventually count all reported married couples in the same category, which Wilson said would indicate that the Census Bureau recognizes the two groups as “equally valid.”

Long expressed measured optimism for the census’ effect on the future.

“We have a very—and you can capitalize that very—long way to go.”


Share and discuss “2010 census to report same-sex marriages” on social media.