Site Offers Census Tips for Gay, Trans Couples

With the 2010 U.S. Census fast approaching in April and forms going out to U.S. households next month, one Web site is offering some tips to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender couples to ensure that their families are also counted

The U.S. Census is conducted every decade and its results determine how many Congressional Representatives each state is assigned and how much federal money is given out to each state to maintain any number of programs. Since 1990 the Census form has allowed individuals to list unmarried partners who reside with them, thus allowing the government to provide statistics about gay and lesbian-headed households across the country. In 2000, for example, the Census showed that gay and lesbian couples lived in nearly every county of every state.

The Web site, ourfamiliescount.org, was founded in 2009 with the goal of encouraging gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender couples and individuals to participate in this year’s census. It includes links to the Census’ Web site and discusses parts of the form in detail, including whether or not respondents can include their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“No Americans will be asked their sexual orientation, so LGBT people cannot make their sexual orientation or gender identity visible on the census form,” it reads. “However, those of us who are living with a spouse or partner can indicate that relationship by checking either the ‘husband/wife’ or ‘unmarried partner’ box.”

It is more important than ever that same-sex couples respond to this year’s Census, said site organizers, because the U.S. Census Bureau has said it will release counts of heterosexual spouses and unmarried same-sex partners this year.

When filling out the form, site organizers advise that one member of a same-sex couple should put down his or her name as “Person 1” — that is, the person who owns or rents the dwelling. Regardless of whether or not gay marriage is legal in the couple’s state, they should identify the other person as a husband or a wife.

“Other same-sex couples may be more comfortable using the term ‘unmarried partner,’” the posting on the Web site continued.  “In general, this term is designed to capture couples who are in a ‘close personal relationship’ and are not legally married or do not think of themselves as spouses. Census forms do not provide an option yet to explicitly designate a couple as united by civil union or a public domestic partner registry.”

The site also advises transgender people to check the sex they identify with and encourages people of color in bi-racial relationships to identify themselves as the head of household, because the Census typically identifies a household’s racial or ethnic make up by the racial identity of its head. It also makes clear that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender respondents will not be targeted or harassed for their answers.

Our Families Count is supported and administered by members of a number of gay and transgender and allied organizations including Faith Cheltenham of BiNet USA, Earl Fowlkes of International Federation of Black Prides, Inc., Mara Keisling of National Center for Transgender Equality and Javier Angulo of HONOR PAC.

Data posted on the Web site from the 2000 Census stated that 3,370 couples were counted in Utah, with roughly 100 more identifying as lesbian. Of these, 1,102 were raising children and 15 percent included at least one person of color.

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