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SHOCK: Census Waiting Another 10 Years to Count Married Gay Couples?


Weren’t we supposed to be celebrating our inclusion in the 2010 census? Too bad. You’re going to have to wait another 10 years.

Citing the scattered state-by-state legality of same-sex marriage, the U.S. Census Bureau will not count married gays as, uh, “married”; they will be listed as “unmarried partners.” Their gayness, however, will be counted in another way: Same-sex household coupling data will be recorded, and made available, on a state-by-state level.

How come? Changing the counting method revealed “a wildly inflated number could be produced if the number of heads of household who said they lived with another adult of the same sex, and described that person as a husband or wife, were only counted. Some couples in civil unions or domestic partnerships, or who live as spouses in states where gay couples have no spousal rights, have tended in past surveys to identify themselves as husbands or wives anyway, according to [Gary Gates, a University of California, Los Angeles demographer who has been advising the bureau on gay issues].”

And no matter how much quibbling, 2010’s methodology is “set in stone,” according to Tim Olsen, assistant chief of the bureau’s field division.

Now if we’re reading the excuses correctly, Census officials are afraid of overcounting the gays?

The annual American Community Survey the bureau produced for 2008, for example, had 150,000 married same-sex couples spread across every U.S. state, even though only two states — Massachusetts and for a 5-month period, California — allowed same-sex marriages. Gates estimates there are probably no more than 35,000 legally married gay couples in the country now.

This is no small matter. Census data is used in everything from deciding where to put voter polling outposts to how much cash the government hands out to certain projects. Going another 10 years without an official count of America’s married gays will only reinforce their invisibility.