Gay Relationships & the US Census

The 2010 US Census is coming soon and there’s an important opportunity for same-sex couples to be counted. In the 1990 & 2000 censuses, same-sex couples could identify as married or unmarried partner. While the results weren’t officially reported, the raw numbers show that 145,000 same-sex couples identified as married or “unmarried partners” in 1990 (before any legal recognition in the U.S. even existed) and close to 600,000 same-sex couples self-reported in 2000. This time, there’s an official way to do it:

What Box Do You Check?

If you are in a relationship and you live together, you have two choices. First, one of you will be designated as “Person 1.” If there is no clear favorite for who should be the head of household, perhaps you could flip a coin, wrestle for it or hold a lip-synching competition. Whoever doesn’t win will be designated as “Person 2.” This person is asked how they are related to Person 1. There are 16 choices, but the two that concern you are “husband or wife” and “unmarried partner.”

This is the important part: You do not answer based on the actual legal status of your relationship, you answer based on how you personally categorize your relationship. If you are legally married, you will probably mark down “husband or wife,” though if you are in a civil union or domestic partnership, yet you still feel married, than you should also mark “husband or wife.” If there is no legal recognition of your relationship where you live, but you still consider yourself married, it’s also important that you mark “husband or wife.”

If this box doesn’t accurately represent your relationship, you have the option of the “unmarried partner” box. If this sounds like a vague catch-all, that’s because it is. The Guide to the American Community Survey says “An ‘Unmarried partner,’ also known as a domestic partner, is a person who shares a close personal relationship with Person 1.” If this better describes your relationship, than please mark the “unmarried partner” box.

If you are not in a relationship, unfortunately there is no way for you to officially come out to the U.S. Government on this Census, but there are still some important steps that you need to take if we are going to change this in the future.

The Census is an essential part of the US political process since it’s used to apportion seats in the House of Representatives and therefore the Electoral College. It also has implications for all sorts of other useful statistics, so making sure that same-sex couples are counted is important.

Please pass this along to anyone who might need to know about it. Stand up and get counted!

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