Eric Marcus

When is a Marriage Not a Marriage?

Filed By Eric Marcus | July 20, 2008 9:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: Bill Clinton, Census Bureau, Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, gay marriage, LGBT families, same-sex partners

When I read in Friday's NY Times that the "Census Will not Record Same-Sex Marriages," I asked myself a question:

Dear Eric:
Why won't the 2010 Census count legally married gay couples?
--Perplexed in NYC

Dear Perplexed in NYC:

Remember the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)? The one Bill Clinton signed into law in the middle of the night in September 1996? That's the bill that was passed by Congress by a vote of 85-14 in the Senate and 342-67 in the House of Representatives.

Well, as the Census Bureau explained, the Defense of Marriage Act bars the [federal] agency from recognizing same-sex marriages. Doesn't matter if there are two states where gay couples can legally marry. Doesn't matter if the couple is legally married, because in the eyes of United States government, they're not.

So if you're a gay couple and legally married and answer honestly on your census form that you're married, the Census Bureau will reclassify you as "unmarried, same-sex partners."

The good news is if you're a same-sex couple with children who are related to the head of the household, you'll be classified as a family. No kids? Not a family.

It's good to know that our federal government is hard at work defending marriage and the American family. I'm sure I'll sleep better tonight.

But just in case you're not sleeping better, you may want to sign on to a petition sponsored by People for the American Way.

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Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 20, 2008 9:23 AM

Wow, no wonder so few same sex couples are indicated on the 2000 census. Thanks Eric.

I've seen several of the "Force them to change their mind!" petitions, but I don't think any of them will be effective. At least not this year. The census is too close now for them to change all the paperwork and push through the changes that would have to happen with every other agency to ensure that the data is properly distributed.

And, as Eric points out, DOMA doesn't allow the feds to even use that data for an agency since in the eyes of the federal government there is no such thing as same-sex marriage.

Yeah, it's weird that people are taking this out on the census bureau, even though they didn't write DOMA.

Eric, first of all can I say that I LOVE that you wrote a letter to yourself and then answered it? How very Nietchsze of you!

As for taking on the Census Bureau, I agree with Alex. They're just a bunch of pencil-pushing bureacrats doing their job enforcing arbitrary rules. Their classifications for race are silly, too. But I don't see those going away any time soon.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | July 21, 2008 2:50 PM

t's weird that people are taking this out on the census bureau, even though they didn't write DOMA.

In a way it makes perfect sense, Alex. For many people, the Census Bureau is the most "personal face" of the federal government they'll ever see. They may not have written DOMA, but they're enforcing it.