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July 15, 2008

The Census Closet

It's been more than a decade since I came out of the ol' closet and told family and friends that I was attracted to women — a big deal both at my conservative college and in my Roman Catholic and Southern Baptist family.

These days I don't lie about myself or my family to anyone — except the federal government.

Every year on my tax forms, I tell the feds that I'm single, even though my partner and I have been civil unioned for 8 years and have one son, and another baby on the way (due any day!).

And in 2010, when the census rolls around, it looks like I'll have to lie once again. According to this article from the Mercury News, I'll have to say that Ann-Elise and I are "unmarried partners." Even though we made a legal commitment to each other that's recognized by the state of Vermont — even though all of our family and friends still tell us how much they enjoyed our wedding.

Why won't the U.S. government count same-sex married couples in the census? There are two states where gay couples can legally wed, in addition to the places where they can be joined in civil union. Why not count them? The government spokesman quoted in the story says they're not counting married same-sex couples because no federal agency collects data about them. Huh?

Here's demographer Gary Gates dissent:

"I just think it's bad form for the census to change a legal response to an incorrect response," said Gary Gates of the Williams Institute, a think tank at the University of California-Los Angeles law school that studies gay-related public policy issues. "That goes against everything the census stands for."

Gates, a prominent demographer who was consulted by Census Bureau officials about counting legally married same-sex couples, said one result is that the census will undercount marriages in states with gay marriage. And because the bureau defines a "family" as two or more people related by birth, adoption or marriage, it also will remove many same-sex married couples from being counted as families.

"It's a systematic hiding not only of married gay couples, but gay couples as families, which I would argue is a fundamentally political decision," Gates said...

"It's an official closet," Gates said, "that the government has built."

It sucks being forced back into the closet. Sucky, suck-dog closet.

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