Friday, July 18, 2008

Gays Don't Count

This was in The Associated Press yesterday. It doesn't directly relate to the Foreign Service, though the service does continue to treat legally married same-sex couples as single "Members of Household":

Census won't recognize gay marriages in 2010 count

Same-sex marriage is legal in two states, but not a single one will show up in the 2010 census.

The Census Bureau says the federal Defense of Marriage Act bars the agency from recognizing gay marriages in the nation's 10-year count, even though the marriages are legal in Massachusetts and California.

The agency's director, Steven Murdock, said in an interview Thursday that the 1996 federal law "has that effect, in terms of being a federal agency. We are restricted by it."

The Census Bureau does not ask people about their sexual orientation, but it does ask about their relationships to the head of the household. Many gay couples are listed in census figures as unmarried, same-sex partners, though it is an imperfect tally of all gay couples.

Murdock said the bureau will strive to count same-sex couples in the 2010 census, just as it has in the past. But those people who say they are married will be reclassified as unmarried, same-sex partners.

Same-sex couples with no children will not be classified as families, according the bureau's policy. Those with children who are related to the head of the household will be classified as families.


The bureau relies almost entirely on people's responses to classify them by race, ethnicity, age and income. But not marital status _ at least not in 2010.

"It really should be what you say you are, not what I perceive you to be," Murdock said. But, the agency director added, "We have some limitations. This particular act limits us in regards to this issue."

The issue was also covered by the Washington Post:

Census Won't Count Gay Marriages


Although gay marriage is legal in Massachusetts and California, census officials say that same-sex partners in both states who list themselves as spouses will be recorded as "unmarried partners" -- just as they were in the 2000 census.

Census Bureau spokesman Stephen Buckner cited the Defense of Marriage Act, approved by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing as a marriage the union of anyone but a man and a woman.

The law "requires all federal agencies to recognize only opposite-sex marriages for the purposes of administering federal programs," Buckner wrote in an e-mailed statement. "Many of these programs rely on Census Bureau statistics."

Census officials have said the agency will retain same-sex spouses' original responses but will edit them for the published census tabulations. The policy was first reported by the San Jose Mercury News.


Critics of the policy -- and the law -- say it ignores the changing legal and political landscape in states that contain about 14 percent of the U.S. population. And it ensures that the census results will be factually incorrect, they say.

"Unfortunately the stupidity and unfairness of that law gives [the census] something of a colorable argument," said Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). "It was aimed very specifically at this. It's all the more reason to repeal it. . . . What is it accomplishing by not having an accurate count? It's not even good demographic policy."

The lack of data about same-sex married couples will inhibit researchers who want to better understand a variety of issues, such as wage differences for gay married couples and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, said Gary Gates, a demographer at the UCLA School of Law.

"It limits our ability to get quality information," said Gates, author of the Gay and Lesbian Atlas. "In 2000, the census could very legitimately make the argument that with a same-sex couple, someone couldn't [legally] be a husband or wife. And so they were making an inaccurate response accurate by changing them to an 'unmarried partner.' The situation now is different. You are changing potentially accurate responses to inaccurate responses."

The policy will, for example, require that the couple's children be listed as having single parents, Gates said. And it will cause the census to undercount families, defined as two or more people in the same household related by birth, adoption or marriage, he said.

In Massachusetts, 10,490 same-sex couples were married between May 2004 and August 2007, according to state figures. California, which began same-sex marriages last month, does not keep similar figures. A ballot initiative would amend the state Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.


If I don't count, why do I have to pay taxes?

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