LONG BEACH, California (Observer Update) - No matter the legal fate of Proposition 8, the 2010 Census will not count same-sex marriages or ask respondents about their sexual orientation, reported the Long Beach Press Telegram.
The federal Defense of Marriage Act signed in 1996 by President Bill Clinton does not recognize Gay unions sanctioned by states. Census takers will ask same-sex couples who live together to define themselves as "unmarried partners," as they did in 2000 before some states - currently only Connecticut and Massachusetts - allowed Gay marriage.
"This is all about the numbers. This not about lifestyle or anything else," says U.S. Census spokeswoman Cynthia Endo. The omission of Gay marriage and sexuality questions on the census bothers some Gays and Lesbians, who argue that a proper accounting would give them the same visibility as minorities, who gain political power when their numbers increase.
"I am a sociologist and census data, very important to our existence, and I don't like it when they leave things out, it causes an undercount," says Sharon Raphael, 67, who teaches gerontology at Cal State Dominguez Hills. "Certain numbers of us are not out, and when they hide us under these general descriptions ... it just makes us more invisible." Raphael's partner, Mina Meyer, 69, says she will probably check the "married" box when the census form arrives at their East Long Beach home. "Somebody needs to read that, somebody in those offices needs to know there are people out here who are married," Meyer says, adding that she and Raphael married in California when it was legal last year.
Though the census will not count Gay marriages, domestic partnerships, civil union or the numbers of Gays and Lesbians, the questionnaire should provide some insight, albeit indirectly, into those areas. The census form, Endo says, allows respondents to identify the number of adults in a given household and their relationship. Along with husband and wife, one of those choices is "unmarried partner." If two people of the same sex identify as husband and husband or wife and wife, the census will retain that answer, but when results are released those people will be counted as unmarried partners.
"The census is all about self-identification," Endo says. "We don't ask that question on the census at all, but certain information can be gleaned from that if two people are living ... in the house."
Same-sex couples with children will not be categorized as "families" on the census. Children will be counted as belonging to single parents, those "unmarried partners."
"That's totally unfair," Raphael says. "We should be treated the same. First of all, it's just not good science to leave us out for some dumb political reason."
Gary Gates, a demographer at the UCLA School of Law, says federal law limits census questions to topics for which there is funding, such as income's influence on poverty funding.
There is not a federal funding category for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered, or LGBT, communities. "The truth is there is no federal legislation that would be relevant on having information on LGBT people," he says. He calls that situation a "classic Catch-22" because it is hard to properly assess needs of a group that has not been counted. "We have no population-based survey that asks sexual orientation annually in this country," Gates says, adding that health care is one obvious place where an accurate LGBT count would help.
He encourages cities like Long Beach to use community surveys to get information on the Gay community the federal government does not gather.
Conservative groups tend to support the census the way it is. In a statement, ProtectMarriage.com, a group that backed Proposition 8, says, "The way that the federal government looks at it is the way that the law says it should be in California." It is too late to add questions before 2010. Congress, by law, must approve the questions for the census no later than two years in advance of the count. "It takes an act of Congress to change the questions on the census forms," Endo says. "If somebody would want something changed they would have to start petitioning now."
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