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Stand Up and Be Counted

Gay couples will now be counted as such on the U.S. Census.

Same-sex couples to be counted in the 2010 Census. Plus News Briefs on UH new GLBT center, Hollyfield, and more.
by Josef Molnar

Every 10 years, the United States government conducts a census of the entire population. Those numbers, along with other information about each person’s nationality, race, and income, are used by federal departments and other organizations to determine how their resources should be allocated.

“The census is important, because around $400 billion flows from the government to communities where they think it will do the most good,” said Che Ruddell-Tabisola, a partnership specialist with the Census Bureau in Washington, D.C.

He and about two dozen employees are working to form a national network of organizations to reach out to the gay community and ensure that everyone is not only counted, but that their relationships are reflected in the census as well.

While the majority of individuals are counted, the Census Bureau hasn’t always recorded the status of same-sex relationships correctly. Elizabeth Lyon, the Texas partnership specialist for the Census Bureau, said that the first time the government tried to count unmarried partners was in the 1990 census. When same-sex couples noted their relationship status, many census counters changed the sex of one of the respondents or disregarded the notation. This year, the census forms will be processed in a way that ensures same-sex couples are accurately counted.

“It’s historic in that the Census Bureau will now count the number of same-sex couples who answer,” Ruddell-Tabisola said. The answers will count, even if federal and state laws don’t recognize same-sex marriage.

“The beauty of the census this year is that it’s self-identifiable,” Lyon said. “If a couple considers themselves married, they are married.”

She emphasized that the answers people give on the form are completely anonymous, and encourages respondents to list their correct status. “Don’t put ‘roommate’ or ‘boarder’ because that doesn’t reflect a close, intimate relationship, and it doesn’t reflect the families with children that are part of that relationship,” Lyon said.

Ruddell-Tabisola is encouraging the gay community to spread the word about the importance of the census, especially to same-sex couples.

“The census forms will be mailed out in mid-March,” he said, “and when you receive it, fill it out and mail it out right away.”

The Census website,, contains information about the census, as well as resources and links for people who want to get involved in the outreach efforts. The “Partners” link on the site shows a list of organizations working with the Census Bureau to reach out to the community.

Individuals who want to help out without going door-to-door can also make a difference. “We’re encouraging people to get the word out,” Ruddell-Tabisola said. “You can update your Facebook status to let people know you filled out your census form, and get other people to do the same.” He also suggested adding an e-mail signature encouraging others to fill out their census forms, adding a blog entry about the census, and talking to friends and family.

When all of the numbers are finally tallied, Lyon thinks the 2010 census will reflect the growing number of same-sex couples in the United States.

“When we get the numbers, we’ll be able to say, ‘Look at how many couples we have all over,’” Lyon said.  “There will be no denying that we have gay married and coupled people living in a congressman’s district.” —Josef Molnar


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