The demographer and senior research fellow at the Williams Institute, a think-tank at UCLA School of Law that focuses on sexual orientation, talks about the recent news that the U.S. Census will list same-sex marriages in California and Massachusetts — where they are legal — as “unmarried partners.”
How will the U.S. Census count same-sex married couples in 2010? They’re doing the same thing in 2010 as they did in 2000. Where one person is indicated as the spouse of another person and they're the same sex, they will change that to an unmarried couple.
Is this policy a problem? In Census 2000, when the bureau changed a same-sex spouse to an unmarried partner they were arguably changing an inaccurate response to a more accurate one, because there were no legally married same-sex couples in 2000. The problem today is that they are potentially changing accurate responses to inaccurate ones.
What are the repercussions of this policy? The issue of marriage for same-sex couples is one of the most hotly debated public policy issues right now in the country. Getting more information on same-sex couples who get married is important for that debate.
Did the agency provide reasons for its policy? The Census Bureau says that the Federal Defense of Marriage Act is what keeps it from counting same-sex couples. We believe that there are ways that the bureau can do that and not violate federal law.