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What Every LGBT Person Should Know About the Census

Gabriel Arana

March 15th, 2010

Adrienne Critcher, a BTB reader and communication chair for P.A.C.E. — northwest Louisiana’s largest advocacy organization for the LGBT community — sent along the following important information about the upcoming census and LGBT voters.

Important Information for the LGBT Community on Completing the 2010 Census Form

Same-sex couples everywhere can report as “husband or wife”

The 2010 Census will be the first to report counts of both same-sex partners and same-sex spouses.  These counts will be very important to give an accurate representation of the actual lives of gay and lesbian couples and their families in our nation.

One of the shortest census forms in history, the 2010 Census form will be mailed or delivered to your household in March. Census takers will visit households that do not return their forms starting in May.  The form asks just 10 questions, takes less than 10 minutes to complete and is completely confidential.  By law, the Census Bureau cannot share respondents’ answers with anyone, including other federal agencies and law enforcement entities. All Census Bureau employees take the oath of nondisclosure and are sworn for life to protect the confidentiality of the data. The penalty for unlawful disclosure is a fine of up to $250,000 or imprisonment of up to five years, or both.

How does the 2010 Census count lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people?

The 2010 Census does not ask about sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBT people living with a spouse or partner can identify their relationship by checking either the “husband or wife” or “unmarried partner” box.

How do same-sex couples answer the relationship question?

The 2010 Census will be the first to report counts of both same-sex partners and same-sex spouses. The person filling out the form (Person 1) is asked to identify how all other individuals in the household are related to him or her.

Census data are based on how individuals self identify and how couples think of themselves.  Same-sex couples who are married, or consider themselves to be spouses, can identify one other adult as a “husband or wife.” Other same-sex couples may instead decide to use the term “unmarried partner.” In general, people who identify as unmarried partners are in a close personal relationship but are not married or do not think of themselves as spouses.

Census data are based on how individuals self identify. This includes same-sex couples who live somewhere their relationship is not recognized.

What about transgender individuals?

The 2010 Census asks a question about each person’s sex. Transgender respondents should select the sex with which they identify. Mark only one box.

How do I answer the race and ethnicity question?

The 2010 Census includes two questions about race and ethnicity. Note that the question about ethnicity is separate from the question about race. Further, the race question allows respondents to check all boxes that apply.

A note to bi-racial/ethnic couples:

Census reports some statistics on the race/ethnicity of the “household.” Bi-racial/ethnic couples should note that this is determined using the race/ethnicity of Person 1, the person who fills out the Census form for the household.

For more information about the 2010 Census, go to

For inspiration watch:

All our families count!!

The U.S. Census Bureau thanks Dr. Gary Gates, The Williams Distinguished Scholar of The Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law, for his contributions and research of same-sex headed households.  More information is available at

“Census data have done more to make LGBT families and their needs visible than any other source of data we have.”

Lee Badgett, Research Director

The Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law

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Alex Parrish
March 15th, 2010 | LINK

It would have been helpful to have this information earlier; my census arrived 3-4 weeks ago and has already been sent-in. Too late to change it now!

March 15th, 2010 | LINK

My Registered Domestic Partner and I rent a room from a friend of ours who owns the home in which we live. From my understanding, our roommate, the owner of the home, would be listed as Person 1. Since the form (which has not arrived at our house yet, so please forgive me if I am misunderstanding) asks one’s relationship to Person 1, my partner and I would not be counted as a ‘committed’ couple. Is that correct? If so, any advice on what to do? Maybe ask our roommate if my partner or I can be listed as Person 1? I’m open to, and hoping for, suggestions.

March 15th, 2010 | LINK

Filled my form out today – I am single, live alone; afterwards called the 800 # to ask them how I could inform the Bureau that I’m gay. Disastrous phone call. Automated intro didn’t work, ultimately spoke with a person who reported that she was getting an “echo effect” so couldn’t communicate clearly; but did inform me that I should check either the male or the female box. I explained I wasn’t asking about gender but orientation. Asked for a supervisor who was similarly polite but no more informative. They need the information supplied in the article! Maybe they’ll get it together for the 2020 census.

March 15th, 2010 | LINK

Sorry Alex!
Matt-if either you or your partner can be #1 then it’ll show up and count in that way. Otherwise you are all roommates.
Richard–The Census’ sole purpose is to count the people–the rest of the information is GREAT for the community, statistics for non-profits, and for people interested in historical records. I’m sure there are plenty of other uses as well. The form is so short-it’s GREAT that we can list partners and at least we’ll have that count even though we aren’t going to know exactly how many homosexuals are in our country.
Anyone else know anything different??

Jason Cianciotto
March 15th, 2010 | LINK

Thanks for the great post Gabriel! My husband and I were married in Toronto in 2008. Based on this information, we should indicate that we are married on the Census form, even though most states and the federal government do not recognize our Canadian marriage.

March 15th, 2010 | LINK

An “are you gay” question on the census would be ridiculous. I am a person, like any other, and my homosexuality is “part” of me, and should be a nonissue in the eyes of my government. You’re gay? So what. You’re straight. Woohoo. Good for you. You used to be a man? And? Who the hell cares. Next.

March 16th, 2010 | LINK

Matt –
Kel2010 is correct. You can put yourself as Person #1 and your partner as Person #2. The owner can be Person #3. Question #3 addresses if the house is “owned by someone in the house” – it doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be Person #1. So to make sure you are counted as a couple, make sure you or your partner are Person #1.

March 23rd, 2010 | LINK

I would remind people that the census data was used to identify, locate and confine Japanese Americans during WWII. I will be completing the census form answering all questions truthfully but with trepidation.

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