Rev Irene Monroe

Can't Stand Out to Be Counted

Filed By Rev Irene Monroe | August 11, 2008 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: 2010 Census, Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, gay marriage, LGBT households, marriage equality, same-sex marriage

Every 10 years the U.S. Census Bureau, now metaphorically, comes knocking on our doors. But when the 2010 census surveys arrive in Massachusetts, married same-sex couples will be reclassified as either unmarried or as same-sex partners if it's a childless household, or single-parent families if we have children. But same-sex couples in Massachusetts will not alone in this battle to be counted; California couples will face the same challenge.

"To completely whitewash us out of existence is hurtful, discriminatory and shameful," said Molly McKay of Marriage Equality USA, a California-based group that advocates for same-sex marriage. "It's like the federal government is trying to say that we don't exist."

And believe it or not, the Census Bureau, unlike our present administration, says it doesn't care who you're sleeping with. It just wants to know your relationship to the head of the household.

But with the Bureau's intent on acquiring up-to-date information about every member of a given demographic group, LGBTQ households will not only be misrepresented; our households will also be made invisible when it comes to proportionally distributing the allocation of federal funds that help lawmakers make appropriate policy decisions.

"This is such nonsense," Arline Issacson, co-chairwoman of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, told the Boston Globe. "Their job [on the census] is not to count only those things that they wish existed and then refuse to count the rest. How can you make public policy when you don't have accurate information?"

But Issacson is not alone in asking this question. So, too, did Senator John F. Kerry in an e-mailed statement he sent to the Globe. "If we don't have an inaccurate census, how can we sensibly provide federal, state and local resources? The census should be above political influence."

This "separate and unequal treatment" of same-sex households is just another example of the 1,100 plus federal rights, privileges and protection that are denied to us. And this denial is due to restrictions imposed by the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which explicitly forbids federal government agencies to recognize same-sex marriages.

"It really should be what you say you are, not what I perceive you to be," Steven H. Murdock told the Associated Press. But the agency director added, "We have some limitations. This particular act limits us in regards to this issue."

DOMA has two main provisions: No state (or other political subdivision within the United States) need treat a relationship between persons of the same sex as a marriage, even if the relationship is considered a marriage in another state; The Federal Government may not treat same-sex relationships as marriages for any purpose, even if concluded or recognized by one of the states.

DOMA was passed into law in 1996. By 2006, 25 states adopted amendments to their state constitutions prohibiting same-sex marriage, and another twenty stated enacted statutory DOMAs.

In the 2000 census, same-sex marriage was not an issue because it did not begin in Massachusetts until May 17, 2004, and in California until June 17 of this year. And with the possibility of not a single one of our marriages showing up in the 2010 Census these households are not only discriminated against, but are also devalued as a vital component and contributor to American life.

"This is simple discrimination plain and simple. If the census bureau said they weren't going to count black couples or Mexican couples it would be thrown out immediately and people would be brought to court," stated a commenter on Mercury News.

Although Obama does not support same-sex marriage, a statement on his campaign website on LGBTQ civil rights, Obama says we, the American people, should "fully repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples."

McCain, on the other hand, is against repealing DOMA. And just last month McCain stated on ABC News that he "...voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which clearly indicated the unique status of a marriage between man and woman. I will continue to support that, I will continue to have my position."

The 2000 Census estimated there were approximately 9,000 same-sex couples in Massachusetts. Today there's an estimate of approximately 11,000 same-sex marriages in Massachusetts, and the number is growing.

In a 4-to-3 decision, the California Supreme Court this May ruled that a "separate and unequal" system of domestic partnership for same-sex couples is blatantly discriminatory and unconstitutional. It stated in its ruling: "In contrast to earlier times, our state now recognizes that an individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation, and, more generally, that an individual's sexual orientation--like a person's race or gender--does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights."

In other words, the times have changed, and the 2010 census should reflect this change by letting our households be counted.

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If the government recognizes our relationships and lives in the census, it stands to reason that they'd quickly have to come to the realization that DOMA and other discrimination aren't acceptable policies. With George W at the helm, that means there are enough smart conservatives in higher government that will do their utmost to make sure our families don't count.

The census is also a very important subject for the T community, since there is no substitute for census statistics when doing political advocacy work. There is no truly accurate count of people who've transitioned, who crossdress, or who are otherwise trans-affiliated. It would be nice to have a space on the census to denote that fact.

I think this is just another reason why DOMA should be eliminated before 2010. You listening, Barack, Nancy, and Harry?

Irene, thank you for writing this. It shows us that even though we have the most robust and inclusive Democratic Party Platform about to be adopted, there is much more work to be done.

The DNC Platform recognizes gender identity alongside sexual orientation, cites same-sex couples as a recognized family with or without children and includes so much more including calling for a national AIDS strategy.

I hope that with Sen. Obama as President, this issue can be addressed with due respect and be resolved fairly. Diego