2010 Census: Gays, what gays?

The population survey will effectively make same-sex couples and families disappear.

Topics: Broadsheet, Gender, Love and Sex,

Good news, homophobes: The 2010 Census is going to make homosexuals disappear. Well, OK, they will still exist, just not officially. That’s because the census will neither ask about sexual orientation nor recognize gay marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships. Married same-sex partners with a child won’t even be considered “families.” The U.S. Census Bureau simply isn’t interested in a person”s “lifestyle,” explains spokesperson Cynthia Endo, “This is all about the numbers” — and gay people just don’t count.

Same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut and Massachusetts — and some 18,000 unions in California stand, at least for now, despite the passage of Proposition 8 — but the federal Defense of Marriage Act prevents gay couples from being federally recognized. So, the Press-Telegram reports, “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.” A same-sex couple with kids will be listed as single parents — even if they’re living under the same roof, with a white picket fence, minivan and all other symbols of the dream American family.

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Some might roll their eyes and ask: Why care if your minority group, relationship or family is officially counted — aren’t there bigger battles to fight? But that simple acknowledgment could inject some potent political power into the lesbian, gay and transgender community. The federal government uses the census to decide which demographic groups most need its help (for instance, with healthcare). According to demographer Gary Gates of UCLA School of Law, there’s a “classic Catch-22″ at play: The census is limited to addressing issues that are backed by federal funding, but good luck trying to get it for a group that isn’t officially counted.

I leave you with the words of 67-year-old Sharon Raphael of California, who puts the problem perfectly: “It’s just not good science to leave us out for some dumb political reason.”

Tracy Clark-Flory

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

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