censussing out

30% of America’s Gays Are Married (Or Married-Ish). Not That Their States Recognize It

How excited WERE YOU when you found out that, for the first time, those door-knockers counting everyone up for the U.S. Census were going to include data on same-sex couples? Well, then you found out it wasn’t really a perfect system, and the gays wouldn’t exactly be totally on the radar. And now the hard(ish) data: One in seven of gay couples won’t be identified as such. But that doesn’t mean we don’t know how many of you are living under the same roof. Big brother knows all!

A stunning 99 percent of America’s homos participated in this year’s census, claims UCLA Law’s Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy (compared to just 1 in 7 households on average). But because of the way they filled it out, some 15 percent won’t be recorded as such.

Same-sex couples are identified in Census data when one partner is “Person 1” in a household and designates the other as a husband, wife, or an unmarried partner. The survey found that 1 in 10 individuals in same-sex couples opted to identify as roommates on their Census forms. An additional 5% of couples are not identified because they live in a household where neither partner is Person 1.

Respondents who used terms other than spouse or unmarried partner cited three main reasons for their decision. About a third said that they just thought of their relationship in some other way, a quarter cited confidentiality concerns about disclosing their relationship, and a third were protesting either because they opposed the fact that the Census was not asking a sexual orientation or gender identity question or they were offended by the options presented.

But according to the Williams Institute’s own survey, “30% of same-sex couples are either married (14%) or in a civil union or registered domestic partnership (15%). More than 4 in 10 of those couples in legal relationships do not live in states that recognize their marriage, civil union, or domestic partnership.” And: “More than 3% of individuals in same-sex couples indicated that they were transgender or had a transgender partner. Of that group, 55% said that they were either married or in a civil union or registered domestic partnership compared to only 28% of non-transgender respondents.” Oh, plus: “Nearly all married couples who selected unmarried partner to describe their relationship said that they did so because either the federal or state government does not recognize their marriage.”

Way to let the government define your relationship, pals!


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  • greenluv1322

    We made sure to identify as married. And I am Person 1, I guess we do exist!

  • Hal Shipman

    I worked for the Census at the time, on various initiatives to increase participation. There will surely be some undercounting for the reasons described and the question just being confusing. But that was nothing compared to the Hispanic ethnicity vs. race questions.

    However, to the Census Bureau’s credit, they did issue a memo internally that made it absolutely explicit that same-sex couples could identify as married, regardless of federal law or even the local law. In fact, it was the only such separate, explicit notice like that.

  • Hal Shipman

    Oh, and by “internally,” I don’t mean that it was hidden or anything. ALL staff got a copy of it and it was distributed to all of our Questionnaire Assistance Centers.

  • slobone

    In spite of what this article and a lot of similar ones have been saying, it’s not true that the 2010 census is the first one to count same-sex couples — they were already counted in 2000. The big difference this time is that couples can specify whether they’re married, in domestic partnerships, or whatever. That question wasn’t asked in 2000 — at that time they could only check “unmarried partners”.

    In fact the Census Bureau compiled lists of how many same-sex couples live in different places. It really makes fascinating reading. There was one small town in Montana that had 12 lesbian couples, for instance.

    You can find some of the results at


    But there may be sites that break it down in more detail.

  • Jeffree

    @Hal Shipman @Slobone: Thanks for the additional information. Posts like yours make this a better site !

  • Siki?

    “More than 3% of individuals in same-sex couples indicated that they were transgender or had a transgender partner.”

    Read this sentence carefully and ponder what it means.
    97% of gay couples have nothing to do with
    “transgender”. You can be sure that if they were able
    to survey trannies, you would find that 97% are not gay.
    The 3% overlap is no different than the gay overlap with
    any group. In other words the notion that there is some special connection between gay people and trannies, hermaphrodites, shemales and the rest of the traveling circus known as “transgender” is and has always been a foul lie. A lie created by privileged white queer studies academics who care nothing about the real consequences of their fads on the lives of real gay people.

    Stop calling gay people LGBT. Stop insulting gay kids with
    that label.

  • orinthe

    There is a big difference between “30% of gay PEOPLE are married(-ish)” and “30% of gay COUPLES are married(-ish)”.

  • John Raymond Barker

    @Siki?: Shame on you! Intelligent people know full well that sexual orientation and sexual identity are separate things–that there are heterosexual transgendered people as well as gay and bisexual.

    The reason they belong in the LGBT group is that they are called names and beaten up just as much, if not more than gay people. For the ignorant homophobe, it’s all the same. And, thus, we should all work together to achieve equality for all of us.

    And that includes heterosexuals, whether transgendered or not. They deserve protection from discrimination, too.

  • Andreusz

    @ John Raymond Barker.

    Well said.

Comments are closed.