September 28, 2011 | by Chris Johnson
2010 Census count of gay couples is reduced

The U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday unveiled new data revealing that 131,729 married same-sex couples and 514,735 same-sex unmarried couples live in the United States.

Based on information compiled as part of the 2010 Census — the first time ever data on gay couples was collected as part of the effort — the new figures revise earlier estimates of same-sex couples published in the summer. Initial data showed 349,377 married same-sex couple households and 552,620 same-sex unmarried partner households.

Census Bureau staff discovered an inconsistency in the statistics that artificially inflated the number of same-sex couples. The adjusted results are closer to previously released estimates of the 2010 American Community Survey for same-sex married and unmarried partners.

In a statement, Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said his bureau understands “how important it is for all groups to have accurate statistics that reflect who we are as a nation.”

“As scientists, we noticed the inconsistency and developed the revised estimates to provide a more accurate portrait of the number of same-sex couples,” Groves said. “We’re providing all three — the revised, original and ACS estimates — together to provide users with the full, transparent picture of our current measurement of same-sex couples.”

According to the Census Bureau, the 2010 Census revised estimates were peer-reviewed by Gary Gates, a gay demographer with the Williams Institute at the University of California in Los Angeles, Philip Cohen, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Megan Sweeney, professor of sociology at UCLA. These experts agreed the methodology was sound behind these revised estimates.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said the revised estimates demonstrate the need to advance marriage equality throughout the country.

“The number of gay and lesbian couples in committed, loving relationships, raising families together, continues to grow, leaving more and more families without the critical safety-net of marriage,” Wolfson said.

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, said the publication of the data is “another step in erasing the invisibility of our lives.”

“No longer are our marriages rendered invisible in the snapshot of our country provided through the Census,” Carey said. “And no longer can anyone ignore the presence of our relationships all across the country.”

The Task Force played a role in getting the U.S. Census Bureau to report the number of married same-sex couples in the 2010 census as part of its “Queer the Census” initiative.

Participants were encouraged to place a sticker on the back of their 2010 Census envelopes asking the U.S. Census Bureau to include LGBT people in the count. According to the Task Force, more than 140,000 stickers were sent in and more than 30,000 people signed a petition demanding LGBT-inclusion in efforts like the Census.

Despite the inclusion of information on same-sex couples, Carey said additional information — not just on couples but on individuals — is necessary for adequate insights about LGBT people in the United States.

“[LGBT] individuals still are not counted in the Census or dozens of other surveys that are supposed to reflect the diversity of people in America,” Carey said. “When LGBT people are not counted, we don’t ‘count’ when it comes to money for services, resources and programs. Census and other data are the basis for how the government spends billions of dollars each year.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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