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No Nonsense Census


Rea Carey

There’s been another informed and intelligent decision by the Obama administration.

In August 2008, in an LA Progressive article entitled “Census Nonsense,” which decried the Bush administration’s move to exclude legally married same-sex couples from being counted as married couples during upcoming the 2010 census, I wrote, “ capsulize the situation, as it stands now, legally married same-sex couples who report themselves as such will not be counted. Their data will be edited, changed, mind you, to reflect the right wing political agenda of the Bush Administration.”

That was then, this is now.

On Friday, June 20, 2009, U. S. Census Bureau spokesperson Steve Jost announced, "(Legally married same-sex couples) will be counted, and they ought to report the way they see themselves. 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." (The next nationwide census begins 4/1/10.)

This formally reverses earlier decisions made under the Bush administration.

According to reporter Lisa Leff, “Since President Barack Obama took office, his administration has been under pressure from gay rights activists to take a fresh look at the issue. The White House on Friday announced that its interpretation of the act, known as DOMA, did not prohibit gathering the information. Gay marriage is now legal in six states, although the first weddings have not yet commenced in three of them.”

Jost said 2010 census officials already were identifying the technical changes needed to ensure the reliability of the information, but remained committed to providing an accurate tally of gay spouses.

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Rea Carey, Executive Director National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, proclaimed, “This is a huge win for the LGBT community and our allies. Thousands of you stood up and refused to allow same-sex marriages, our families and our children to be rendered invisible. The Task Force has been pushing for months through meetings with Census Bureau and other administration officials in Washington, in formal letters and phone calls to make sure that the Census Bureau counts all marriages accurately rather than spending valuable time and resources to literally erase our very existence.”

Ms. Carey acknowledged, “We also would like to thank Gary Gates of the Williams Institute for his years of work and for partnering with us to educate the (Obama) administration on this critical issue of visibility for our community. His efforts and your actions made all the difference in this fight.” (The Williams Institute, a national think tank at UCLA Law, produces high quality research which advances sexual orientation law and public policy through rigorous, independent research and scholarship and disseminates it to judges, legislators, policy makers, media and the public.)

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs added, "The president and the administration are committed to a fair and accurate count of all Americans. We're in the midst of determining the best way to ensure that gay and
lesbian couples are accurately counted."

As I observed last year, “Witnessing the Bush administration’s politicalization of the nation’s governmental agencies, it would be a surprise to learn that the United States Census Bureau (CB) had escaped the political correctness-du-jour, especially in light of it’s history. Through the years, the CB has weathered accusations that, despite it’s promise to collect and disseminate “quality data,” certain segments of the population were, shall we say, ‘under served.’”

Jamie Grant of the Huffington Post after thorough study concluded, “The Census has long rendered invisible or less valuable certain segments of the population to fit the political whims of the day. The U.S. Census was founded at the signing of the Constitution, when the worth of any black citizen was officially recorded as 3/5ths of a person. The Census' dehumanization of black Americans was a critical underpinning of a system that held slavery as natural and essential to the social and economic well-being of the nation.”

UGLA, Uptown Gay and Lesbian Alliance, which is headquartered in Northeast Los Angeles, has been encouraging the visibility and inclusion of openly gay men and lesbians in all aspects of NELA community life for over a quarter-of-a-century. LGBT folk have learned that if you officially don’t exist, no one has to deal with you and your concerns aren’t addressed. UGLA led the area’s fight to defeat Prop 8, the California Constitutional amendment which halted marriage for same-sex couples. However, even though Prop 8 passed, the California Supreme Court let stand the 18,000 same same-sex marriages which were performed between June and November, 2008.

carl matthes

Census takers: sharpen your pencils and, no giggling or blushing, please!

Carl Matthes