Friday, May 15, 2009

Lawmakers: Census Should Include Gay Couples  | News |

Lawmakers: Census Should Include Gay Couples  | News |

By Kerry Eleveld
Lawmakers: Census Should Include Gay Couples

Gay U.S. representatives Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Barney Frank of Massachusetts, and Jared Polis of Colorado along with 48 other congressional members sent a letter to Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag asking that the 2010 Census count same-sex married couples rather than altering their status.

Last year, the Bush administration -- citing the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex unions -- announced that lawfully married same-sex couples who marked “married” on their census forms would have their status changed to “unmarried partners” in the final count. Now, congressional members are calling on Orszag to reverse course.

“We are deeply concerned about the implications of this policy for same-sex couples and for the integrity of the Census as a whole and firmly believe the [Census] Bureau’s primary objective should be to collect data and report it, not collect data and alter it,” the members said in their letter.

The U.S. Census Bureau conducts a massive survey every 10 years, and during the last decennial census, no state had legalized same-sex marriages. Currently, same-sex couples can legally marry in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa. Meanwhile, Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire have approved marriage-equality laws that will be in effect by the time of the count. And an estimated 18,000 same-sex marriages that are currently in question in California are reportedly unlikely to be annulled by the state supreme court even if Prop. 8 is upheld.

The congressional members told Orszag they believe that publicly reporting data collected on the status of same-sex couples in the United States does not equate to federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Rather, public reporting simply provides basic information about how Americans respond to the Census Bureau’s questions.

“The Census is a vital tool of our democracy. Truthful answers must be recorded and publicly reported in order to ensure the most accurate count and the most democratic process. Americans who are legally married must not be marginalized,” Baldwin said.

Frank added, “We are simply asking the Census Bureau to report the facts as they exist. This should not be controversial."

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