News

Conservatives Blast Census for LGBT-Inclusive Policies

by Kilian Melloy
Thursday Apr 8, 2010

For the first time, GLBT Americans will be able to indicate whether they are part of a same-sex family when responding to the Census. But anti-gay conservative groups are saying that permitting gays to list themselves as "married" is a violation of federal law, reported The Christian Post on April 6.

The law in question is the 1996 so-called "Defense of Marriage" Act, which specifies gay and lesbian families as not eligible for any form of recognition by the United States government. This year's Census will allow gays and lesbians to indicate that they are married to their life partners, even if they are not legally wed, by checking off a "husband" or "wife" box when accounting for their family status. Conservatives say that gay and lesbian families should count themselves as "unmarried partners."

Under DOMA, the federal government is not allowed to recognize same-sex couples as married, even if they have been declared a wedded couple in one of the six states where marriage equality is legal on a state level. The Census' inclusion of gay and lesbian families has been taken up by conservatives as one more cudgel to use against President Obama and his administration.

"The law should count for something when the Census Bureau counts America's population, but apparently it doesn't on President Obama's watch," Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay Family Research Council, declared. "The President's Commerce Department is actively encouraging people to ignore U.S. marriage law and invent new definitions for their relationships."

Added Perkins, ""When it comes to advancing the extreme homosexual agenda, this White House has no limits, not even the facts."

"This policy shift is another attempt to confuse the discussion about marriage by creating a problem of sorts, then providing a solution that advances the homosexual agenda of redefining marriage," stated the Faith and Freedom Network's Gary Randall.

"We pushed hard to make it possible for married same-sex couples to be counted in the 2010 census," the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said in a statement quoted by the Christian Post. The Task Force organized Queer the Census, a push for GLBTs to be able to be counted.

The organization launched a "Queer the Census" campaign demanding even more recognition in the next U.S. census, complete with a question that asks if one is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. "The campaign is designed to ensure that LGBT people are accurately counted in the next census," text at the Task Force website says. "The campaign asks individuals to place a sticker on the back of the census envelope that asks the U.S. Census Bureau to count us all. To date, more than 100,000 stickers have been ordered from people throughout the United States and the territories."

The stickers will not factor into the official count, but the Task Force felt they were necessary since the Census neglects to ask the simplest of questions to determine how many Americans are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered--the sexual orientation and sexual identity of the respondent and of the people in the respondent's household. The 10 questions that comprise the 2010 Census form ask about names, ages, and genders, along with seeking an count of how many people live at each address and whether the respondent owns or rents the property. "Each question helps to determine how more than $400 billion will be allocated to communities across the country," text at the U.S. Census website informs users.

It's because the Census determines allocation of funding--and may to an extent also influence policy decisions--that GLBT equality activists were determined to see gay and lesbian Americans and their families accounted for in some manner. Through cross referencing and statistical analysis, it is expected that a number will be generated to indicate how many GLBT Americans there are in the general population, and how many of them are in stable, long-term relationships--"marriages" in practical fact, if not by law.

But while GLBT equality advocates may worry that the results will underrepresent gay America, the Christian Post article said that anti-gay conservatives are worried that gays and lesbians may actually be overrepresented in the Census. though the publication did not say how.

"The latest disregard for DOMA comes from the Commerce Department, which is actively encouraging people to ignore U.S. marriage law and invent new definitions for their relationships," text at the website for the anti-gay group the Family Research Council reads. "In an ad (paid for by your hard-earned tax dollars), Census officials urge gay couples not to let a little thing like the truth get in the way of a favorable gay 'marriage' count. While these unions only exist in D.C. and five U.S. states, the Bureau insists, 'Same-sex couples who are married or consider themselves to be spouses [in any state], can identify one person to be a husband or wife.' "

The text continued, "What kind of government actively lobbies citizens to lie on their forms? Under this administration, America's legal realities may as well be minor hiccups on the road to a complete abolition of marriage and family." The article goes on to reference a video made by George Takei, an actor from the original Star Trek TV series, and his husband, Brad Altman. The couple, who legally married in California before voters in that state stripped gay and lesbian families of marriage rights, tell viewers that they need not be legally married to declare themselves wed on the form. "It doesn't matter whether you have a legal marriage license or not," Takei says. "It only matters if you consider yourself married."


"If this video were honest, it would say, 'Under the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal government does not recognize same-sex relationships as '"marriages," ' the Family Research Council's website declares. " 'If you are a same-sex couple, you should mark the box that says "unmarried partner," even if you are legally married in the state in which you reside.' "

Transgender Americans are also being encouraged to check the box that reflects their gender identity, even if it does not reflect their physiological gender, the Christian Post article said.

As it happens, same-sex couples and transgender Americans are not the only ones filling in their Census forms in controversial ways. A story at Trekmovie.com reported that some households are returning their Census forms having filled in their race as "Vulcan" or other extraterrestrial species featured in the sci-fi franchise. No conservative groups have as yet blamed Obama, reported to be a Star Trek fan, for this.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


Comments

  • Mike NYC, 2010-04-08 14:05:26

    Facts, not fiction The census is supposed to be about facts, not fiction that pleases a few poorly educated bigots. The census was designed for the government to know who the citizens are and their family situations. It provides valuable information that the country uses in many ways. To pretend that same sex couples and families don’t exist make the whole census a sham. While the bigots may be able to whine about families they don’t like, it is not up to them to demand that government documents be falsified.


  • , 2010-04-08 14:12:11

    ^^^ good point. A family is a family, whatever the gender make-up. If the govt. is going to accurately count families, how could leave out two committed adults raising children together in a single household? Ridiculous.


  • Madison, 2010-04-08 16:49:15

    Thank you for the article, Kilian. Are you familiar with the problem faced by American-foreign ("binational") same-sex couples? For most of us, our foreign spouses/partners have no legal means to remain in the United States once their student or work visas expire, or, in my case, since my partner is unlikely to ever qualify for any kind of visa other than a spouse of an American visa which is denied if you’re a same-sex couple - our significant others cannot be here to be counted in the Census. Were our fundamental human rights not violated under U.S. law, we would be living together in the United States and could be counted. The current change in the U.S. Census Bureau’s policy, now asking us to indicate our relationship status based upon what we believe it to be, doesn’t address the dilemma face by same-sex binationals, who believe they should be fully counted, since we, in our minds and hearts are truly "married", but cannot live in the same U.S. household with our loved ones, because their immigration to the United states is blocked. Do you know whether anything is in the works to address our predicament? Or could something be done to allow us to count our spouses/partners? Keep in mind, the U.S. Census counts convicted felons, non-Citizens, and non-U.S. residents living in the United States, as well as U.S. citizens living abroad, and their non-Citizen legal foreign spouses living abroad. So why can’t our husbands and wives be counted?


  • Madison, 2010-04-08 16:56:43

    Thank you for the article, Kilian. Are you familiar with the problem faced by American-foreign ("binational") same-sex couples? For most of us, our foreign spouses/partners have no legal means to remain in the United States once their student or work visas expire, or, in my case, since my partner is unlikely to ever qualify for any kind of visa other than a spouse of an American visa which is denied if you’re a same-sex couple - our significant others cannot be here to be counted in the Census. Were our fundamental human rights not violated under U.S. law, we would be living together in the United States and could be counted. The current change in the U.S. Census Bureau’s policy, now asking us to indicate our relationship status based upon what we believe it to be, doesn’t address the dilemma face by same-sex binationals, who believe they should be fully counted, since we, in our minds and hearts are truly "married", but cannot live in the same U.S. household with our loved ones, because their immigration to the United states is blocked. Do you know whether anything is in the works to address our predicament? Or could something be done to allow us to count our spouses/partners? Keep in mind, the U.S. Census counts convicted felons, non-Citizens, and non-U.S. residents living in the United States, as well as U.S. citizens living abroad, and their non-Citizen legal foreign spouses living abroad. So why can’t our husbands and wives be counted?


  • Allen - DC, 2010-04-08 17:33:43

    My recognized spouse/husband are proud to be counted. We have waited a lifetime for a moment like this. People like Perkins need to open their minds, eyes, and hearts to see that equality is for all - not his narrowly viewed idea of what/who constitutes a "family."


  • BB, 2010-04-08 20:37:20

    Maybe instead of all this political crap, we ought to just get back to counting heads, like the Constitution says. That’s all it’s looking for - numbers of heads in order to apportion representation. The census doesn’t need to know how many Negroes there are, how many Pacific Islanders versus Inuits, how many homosexual heads of household, how many white heterosexuals. All that is asked by the Constitution is to add up heads. The rest of it is political bullshit, designed to appease one group or another.


  • Weshlovrcm, 2010-04-08 22:30:21

    But wait, I’m confused. I thought radical, conservative, anti-gay activists (such as Perkins) were all for ignoring any law which conflicts with one’s conscience?


  • Apollo, 2010-04-09 13:21:38

    I wonder whether Tony Perkins will end up like Roy Ashburn (extremely anti-gay Californian senator caught driving drunk after leaving a gay club).


  • , 2011-09-04 10:20:37

    Perkins is so gay it jumps out at you like a rattlesnake attacks people. He’s just another pathological liar hiding his own desires behind his bible. MY gay friends gaydar goes nuclear when I show them his pix. He’s also, per Wikpedia been a legislator in LA (so very bigoted it ranks with Mississippi, and is a known pal of david duke, a known kluxer. BTW the FRC is not on the hate group list - not for their (corrupt) religious beliefs but for slandering adn spreading falsehoods about minorities. BTW what does this guy know about families - he’s an ex marine and ex cop. Generally uneducated hard ass and often bigots. I’m str8 but I’d love to do him in the butt on worldwide tv until he screamed more more harder harder faster faster


  • , 2011-09-04 10:23:21

    Perkins will eventually end up on the following list of mostly repubs who have been outed - most by their gay friends who they tried to pick up. http://www.ranker.com/list/top-10-anti-gay-activists-caught-being-gay/joanne (actually now TOP 15 - there are millions like them, just not so notorious)


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