New Math

2010 Census increases outreach to LGBT community and moves a step closer to counting its members

As Americans fill out their once-a-decade U.S. Census forms, the Census Bureau is implementing part of what one senior Census Bureau employee called ”historic” efforts at counting LGBT people in the Census.

Despite that claim, the Census forms still will not count LGBT people. The only grouping of LGBT people to be counted will be same-sex married couples and unmarried partners.

As Gary Gates, the Williams Distinguished Scholar of the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, said at a forum held on April 1 by the congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, ”The Census doesn’t ask — yet — a sexual-orientation or gender-identity question.”

Since 1990, Gates said, the Census has counted the primary responder’s same-sex ”unmarried partner” on the Census form. The change, this year, is in how those same-sex couples who list themselves on their form as married will be counted.

As Gates explained the evolution, the Census Bureau took the dramatic step in 1990 of assuming that any married couple who identified both partners as being of the same sex to have made a mistake. The bureau just turned the same-sex couple listing into an opposite-sex couple, assuming error. In 2000, the same-sex married couples were counted, but they were counted in the Census as ”unmarried partners” because same-sex marriage was not legal anywhere in the country.

In 2010, Gates said, ”spouses will be counted as such this year.”

Tim Olson, assistant division chief of the field division of the Census Bureau, told a gathering in New York City on Monday, April 5, the Census has hired about two dozen employees to work across the country on its partnership programming targeting LGBT people. As Olson also said, this is the ”first time ever” that the Census Bureau is advertising in LGBT media.

Additionally, and as explained at both Census events, Census results are important – and used by the government and scholars like Gates who use words like ”cool” to describe the data.

The New York event, which took place at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, served as the unveiling of public-service announcements encouraging LGBT people to fill out their Census forms. Olson noted that the Logo network, which targets gay viewers, would be helping his efforts, saying, ”They’re going to be airing Census PSAs specific to the LGBT community. They reach more than 40 million households with a message of inclusion, of importance, of respect.”

Olson also gave thanks to Our Families Count, a coalition of more than 200 organizations that ”work closely” with the Census Bureau to develop a website to help LGBT people with the Census, and GLAAD for its efforts at increasing awareness of the Census.