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Census Nonsense


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.” The CB’s mission statement loftily pronounces that it “...serves as the leading source of quality data about the nation's people and economy. We honor privacy, protect confidentiality, share our expertise globally, and conduct our work openly. We are guided on this mission by our strong and capable workforce, our readiness to innovate, and our abiding commitment to our customers.” A very clear mandate but, as it turns out, a very tall order.

As Jamie Grant of the Huffington Post observed. “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.”

Recently, the CB announced it will not count legally married same-sex couples during the 2010 census. (The next nationwide census begins 4/1/10.) Instead, legally married gay and lesbian couples will be counted as "unmarried partners." It’s not hard to understand the influence of right-wing thinking in trying to “politically annul” or render invisible legally married same-sex couples throughout America. How will this be accomplished? According to People for the American Way the CB is, “Compounding the problem of same-sex couples obtaining equal treatment under the law...the bureau will NOT count legally married gay couples as married, and will instead EDIT the data (show them as) unmarried partners."

And the justification? Well, it seems that the discriminating and resourceful CB administrators will hide behind the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, arguing that the federal government doesn't have to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples. So much for quality data and expertise. Officials at the CB have put on blinders. Their new mission statement seems to be, “If you don’t want to want to see ‘em, you don’t have to count ‘em!” But, hello, guys, no matter what you say, legally married gay and lesbian couples are, in one word, married.

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. Gay and lesbian folk have learned that if you officially don’t exist, no one has to deal with you and your concerns aren’t addressed.

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Unwittingly, however, during the 1990 census the government added “unmarried partner” to the list of choices for adults who were living together and raising children. Collected data showed that in 97% of all U.S. counties same-sex couples responded to this new choice. I’m sure eyebrows went up and the data was rechecked. And probably, eyes were rubbed and computer screens slapped, and the data was even more thoroughly rechecked.

Reported the Huffington Post, “Researchers and advocates alike seized on this data set because it remains one of the only federal collection efforts that recognizes and describes the socio-economic reality of same-sex couples and their families. In fact, the (1990) US Census is generally considered the gold standard in data collection.”

carl matthes

So, to 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.
Contact the Census Bureau here

by Carl Matthes

Photo: Carl Johnson (left) and Carl Matthes. Arthur Macbeth, Photographer.

Carl Matthes is a native of Los Angeles and has lived in Eagle Rock for over 40 years. He is a former president and a current Board member of Uptown Gay and Lesbian Alliance. He is a former columnist and a current advisor to the Lesbian News, the oldest lesbian publication in America. He was editor of the GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) newsletter and a former GLAAD National Board member. He has also been a Board member of AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

Other articles by Carl