Gay advocacy groups campaigning to "queer" this year's census won a
significant victory in April, courtesy of the US Census Bureau.
The government agency announced that it is encouraging gay
couples who consider themselves married to check off "husband" or
"wife" rather than "unmarried partner" boxes on their form.
Individuals identifying as transgender are also encouraged to
select the sex with which they identify.
The announcement, part of an unpre-cedented outreach to the gay
community, invigorated activists who have been working on the issue for
several years but outraged many far-right pundits.
Opponents of the gay-inclusive policies argue that they fly in
the face of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), in addition to
constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage approved by many
states in recent years.
DOMA, passed under the Clinton administration in 1996, defined
"marriage" as a legal union between a man and a woman and "spouse" as a
person of the opposite sex. Citing DOMA, George W Bush's administration
ordered that collected data on same-sex couples not be reported in the
Jaime Grant, head of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's
Queer the Census campaign, argues that legislation is open to
interpretation. She said she sees no violation of that legislation in
the bureau's announcement.
"The Bush administration interpreted the Defense of Marriage Act
to its political ends: to erase and denigrate our community," Grant
told Guide magazine. "We're not asking for any federal benefits related
to the census; we just want the bureau to accurately record data, which
is their number-one mandate."
Peter LaBarbera, executive director of the Illinois-based
Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, maintains that the bureau's
move is a gimmick seeking "affirmation of [the homosexual] lifestyle."
He and other social conservative activists would like to see the
outreach efforts halted.
"What they're obviously trying to do is magnify the numbers of
homosexuals in the society. This dates way back in the gay movement,"
LaBarbera wrote. "There was a time when homosexual activists just lied
and said that 10 percent of the public was gay -- that was a bald-faced
lie. It took decades to finally disprove that lie, but here again we
see them calling themselves married because they want to be called
married. Well, that's not what the law says."
Grant said she and other advocates are just beginning their
campaign to make sure gays do not remain invisible. The Queer the
Census campaign has, at press time, mailed an estimated 200,000 pink
stickers that supporters can use to seal their envelopes, spreading the
message that they'd like to see the community counted in full.
"I understand why the right is made nervous by this. They should
be," Grant said. "The more visible our community is in the fabric of
American life, the less they can spread their lies about us. Census
data is enormously important in debunking those myths."
Grant said those who participate in the sticker campaign will be
engaged to form an advocacy network pushing for further change as she
aims for a fully-inclusive census in 2020, if not sooner, via the
annual American Community "mini-census" Survey.
"Our work is far from done, and we will continue to push because
we think it's an outrage that individual LGBT people are still not
counted," she continued. "Without that question, we remain in the dark
on major questions about our communities that hold serious consequences
for our health, our families and our well-being."
|Author Profile: Joseph Erbentraut
Joseph Erbentraut is a Wisconsin-born freelance writer and editor
currently living in Chicago. His articles on politics, music and
culture have been featured in the Village Voice and other publications.
He also blogs at Chicagoist.
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