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Gay Unions Don't Count When it's 'all about the numbers'

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Same sex married couples count as unmarried partners on 2010 census

This couple will have to identify as "unmarried partners" on the 2010 Census, despite marrying legally in West Hollywood this summer. (Photo: Tom Andrews/LAist)

The country is preparing for the 2010 Census, and already same-sex married couples are feeling left out. Respondents will not be asked about their sexual orientation, and households with same-sex couples married by law must be defined as they were in 2000: as "unmarried partners," reports the Press-Telegram.

U.S. Census spokeswoman Cynthia Endo says: "This is all about the numbers. This not about lifestyle or anything else."

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But the cool neutrality of numbers leaves some same-sex partners and spouses feeling left out in the cold. If the Defense of Marriage Act means they aren't recognized legally, many believe it keeps them from gaining political power and "the same visibility as minorities." Being hidden makes same-sex couples "invisible" and leads to an "undercount." Further, their children will be recorded as belonging to a single parent, and not as part of a two-parent family, further stigmatizing couples who may already face social scrutiny for sharing their coupled lives with children.

Part of what the Census does is allow for the federal government to determine what groups of people need assistance, for example with health care. Since there is no federal "count" that records self-identification as belonging to the LGBT community, it is impossible for the government to serve them. The Press-Telegram explains:

Gary Gates, a demographer at the UCLA School of Law, says federal law limits census questions to topics for which there is funding, such as income's influence on poverty funding. There is not a federal funding category for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered, or LGBT, communities.

"The truth is there is no federal legislation that would be relevant on having information on LGBT people," he says.

He calls that situation a "classic Catch-22" because it is hard to properly assess needs of a group that has not been counted.

Gates urges communities to gather their own relevant data about LGBT identification to determine need on a local level, while those in California who remain in support of Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman only, want to keep the federal Census as-is: I
n a statement,, a group that backed Proposition 8, says, "The way that the federal government looks at it is the way that the law says it should be in California."