Big news out of the White House today. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Obama Administration is turning its back on a Bush interpretation of the Defense of Marriage Act that they said prohibited the release of the data on same sex unions.
The administration has directed the Census Bureau to determine changes needed in tabulation software to allow for same-sex marriage data to be released early in 2011 with other detailed demographic information from the decennial count. The bureau historically hasn't released same-sex marriage data.
As the WSJ points out, this is the second time in a week that Obama has "signaled a policy change of interest to the gay community" after the memorandum earlier that gave some benefits to some federal employees.
It seems the growing anger from the LGBT community is starting to push the Administration to action.
Getting counted in the census is a huge step. Being counted means being visible and gives hard, official data on the community.
It remains to be seen how getting and categorizing this information will be accomplished. From issues of people coming out to the confusing mix of marriages, domestic partnerships, and civil unions, putting the data together could prove difficult.
An accurate statistical snapshot of legally married same-sex couples may be elusive. Before the White House's plan emerged, Howard Hogan, associate director for demographic programs at the Census Bureau, said data from its 2007 American Community Survey showed more than 340,000 same-sex couples as being in marriages. But according to data from Massachusetts, the only state that permitted gay marriages in 2007, about 11,000 marriage licenses were issued for same-sex couples.
In the past, the Census Bureau took amazing steps to not only not count our community, but create false information to fit into the their narrow definition of "married couples", including changing the gender of some who reported themselves as same-sex married couples.
The original plan for handling these marriages in the 2010 Census was controversial among some statisticians and gay activists. Following procedures employed in 2000, the bureau had planned to use a computer program that recategorized spouses in same-sex marriages as unmarried partners. For the 1990 count, the bureau simply altered the gender designation of one partner.
This is a huge and substantial step from the White House. Hard statistics on our relationships could come in very handy in our fights for equality and more importantly show what an integral part we are to American society.
This is why it is important that we stay engaged and hold our leaders accountable to our cause. When we begin to get organized and speak with a unified voice, they notice. I truly hope this just another early step from the Administration. We have to keep dragging them in the right direction and get things accomplished.
Keep the pressure on!