A group of bipartisan legislators is calling on a federal agency to count same-sex married couples in the upcoming U. S. Census.
More than 50 U.S. representatives, led by openly gay legislators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.), as well as Steven Israel (D-N.Y.), issued a letter last week to the Office of Management and Budget, pressing for the inclusion of legally married gay couples in the 2010 Census.
U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-2nd Dist.) was the only representative from Pennsylvania to sign the letter.
Last year, then-President Bush issued a statement that same-sex couples who responded that they were married on their census forms would have their status changed to “unmarried.”
“We are deeply concerned about the implications of this policy for same-sex couples and for the integrity of the census as a whole and firmly believe the [Census] Bureau’s primary objective should be to collect data and report it, not collect data and alter it,” stated the letter, sent May 14 to OMB director Peter Orszag.
Bush said at the time that he made the decision to exclude same-sex married couples based on the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that bans the legalization of same-sex marriage at the federal level.
The representatives’ letter stated that including same-sex couples in the analysis is not antithetical to DOMA.
“We firmly believe that publicly reporting data collected on the status of same-sex couples in the United States is not tantamount to federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Instead, public reporting simply provides basic information about how Americans respond to the Census Bureau’s questions,” the legislators wrote.
The last time the U.S. Census was employed, in 2000, same-sex marriage was not legal anywhere in the country.
Massachusetts legalized such unions in 2004, Connecticut achieved marriage equality last year, and this year Iowa, Vermont and Maine all approved same-sex marriage. Vermont and Maine’s new marriage laws will go into effect in September.
A marriage-equality bill in New Hampshire is currently awaiting the governor’s approval, and a similar bill in New York, which already recognizes same-sex marriages performed out of state, received Assembly approval last week and is awaiting consideration in the Senate. The California Supreme Court will rule in the next two weeks on the constitutionality of Proposition 8, which overturned the court’s previous ruling legalizing gay marriage. Some 18,000 same-sex couples were married in California when it was legal.
Frank noted that, in light of the evolving marriage laws in several states, same-sex couples should logically be included in the data.
“We are simply asking the Census Bureau to report the facts as they exist,” he said. “This should not be controversial.”
Kenneth Barr, OMB communications director, said the agency will consider the lawmakers’ arguments.
“We are aware of the letter that has been sent by a number of members of Congress, and we will work with [Commerce] Secretary [Gary] Locke and the Census Bureau to look into their concern,” Barr said.