2010 Census to report same-sex marriages

180px-census_bureau_seal_svgThe Washington Post has reported that gay marriages will be tallied in the 2010 Census.

The Census Bureau will for the first time publicly release the number of gay marriages reported in a decennial census, as it plans to release raw data about same-sex relationships in the 2010 headcount, according to new guidelines released today.

The decision reverses a Bush-era policy that prohibited the release of the data. In a legal opinion published last week, Commerce Department lawyers concluded that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act does not prohibit the Census Bureau from publicly releasing the data, contrary to the conclusions reached by Bush administration lawyers.

Not so fast.  The Census won’t necessarily be reporting legal same-sex marriages.  Instead, it will report the number of same-sex couples who personally identify as married–which could feasibly include those of us who don’t have the benefit of an official license but have had wedding ceremonies or other declarations of marriage.

In a June 21 AP story Census spokesperson, Steve Jost said:

…same-sex couples would be counted, “and they ought to report the way they see themselves,” adding, “In the normal process of reports coming out after the census of 2010, I think the country will have a good data set on which to discuss this phenomenon that is evolving in this country.”

Regardless of how this story was reported in The Post, it is still very good news for journalism.  As any reporter covering the gay and lesbian beat can tell you, finding reliable data about same-sex relationships has been darn near impossible.  In 1990, the Census raised a ruckus when it changed the sex of respondents who described themselves as a husband or wife of a head household and in a same-sex partnership.  Ten years later, same-sex partners were described as “unmarried partners.”

After bungling counts of same-sex partners in previous years, news of this imminent decision in June and July was welcomed by GLBT organizations and advocates.  Later this year, the Census will report same-sex marriage data as part of its American Community Survey.

Meanwhile, at least one anti-same-sex marriage blogger has decried the coverage of this story by “mainstream” media, saying: “strangely, you can only find out about this disturbing prospect in the gay media.

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