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CENSUS REPORT: WE ARE EVERYWHERE
2001-08-29

This article shared 1771 times since Wed Aug 29, 2001
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The U.S. Census Bureau has released the final set of statistics detailing the number of unmarried, same-sex partner households for all 50 states. The numbers show that 601,209 same-sex, unmarried partner households were counted in the 2000 Census, a 314 percent increase over the 145,130 same-sex, unmarried partner households tallied in the 1990 Census, according to the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported the presence of same-sex, unmarried partner households in 99.3 percent of all counties in the United States; only 22 counties in the entire country reported no same-sex households.

Lorri L. Jean, NGLTF executive director, said the statistics represent an important milestone in the history of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender struggle for equality.

"Never again will a state legislator or city council member be able to say, 'But I don't have any gay or lesbian people in my district,'" Jean said. "The 2000 Census, while flawed, nonetheless represents the best count of same-sex, unmarried couples ever conducted. This data will make it easier for us to push for full recognition of our family relationships when public policy is formed, whether it is in city hall, the state house or the boardroom of a private corporation."

"The census figures will change the debate for many Americans—from an abstract controversy read about in newspapers or seen in noisy debates on television to a discussion about real families, real people and real lives," said David M. Smith, communications director for the Human Rights Campaign. "These facts will help us dispel stereotypes and present a fuller, more accurate picture of the gay and lesbian family in America."

Paula Ettelbrick, NGLTF Family Policy director, attributed the significant increase in the 2000 statistics to three factors: a better counting methodology used by the U.S. Census Bureau, a public awareness campaign launched by NGLTF and the Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies and, most importantly, a growing sense of willingness among same-sex couples to disclose their status on a government form.

"These statistics document better than ever before the existence of same-sex families," Ettelbrick said. "However, they only tell part of the story. Imagine how high the numbers would be if single gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people were counted, if those in relationships but not living in the same household were counted and if every same-sex couple felt comfortable disclosing their status on a government form."

A 50-state breakdown of the Census figures reveals a rough correlation between population size and the size of the increase in the number of reported same-sex, unmarried households, NGLTF reported. Generally speaking, the largest increases came in rural, sparsely populated, more conservative states, while the smallest increases came in the more populated and urban states.

For instance, the five states with the largest increases were, in order, Wyoming, South Dakota, Idaho, West Virginia and Delaware. The states with the smallest increases were, in order, California, Minnesota, Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut. For a state-by-state breakdown, please visit NGLTF's Census Resource Center at www.ngltf.org/issues/Census2000.htm

Ettelbrick said the disparity between the urban and rural states is probably due to better reporting in the 2000 Census compared with the 1990 Census. "We think that same-sex couples in rural states felt more comfortable reporting their status in the year 2000 than they did in 1990," Ettelbrick said. "This resulted in a better and more realistic count in the nation's rural areas. The numbers document what we have suspected all along - same-sex couples exist in every area of the country, including rural areas and suburbs as well as large cities."

During the spring of 2000, the NGLTF Policy Institute and the Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies sponsored a nationwide campaign called "Make Your Family Count!" This public education campaign, which reached approximately 18 million newspaper readers, was aimed at encouraging same-sex couples within GLBT communities to be counted in the U.S. Census.

HRC's FamilyNet, online at www.hrc.org/familynet, also analyzed the statistics, and found, among other details:

— In 2000, gay and lesbian families totaled 601,209 with 304,148 gay male families and 297,061 lesbian families.

— In 1990, the U.S. Census Bureau reported 145,130 total gay and lesbian families, 81,343 male and 63,787 female. The 2000 numbers represent a 314 percent increase.

— Gay and lesbian families live in 99.3 percent of all counties in the United States, compared to 1990 when gay and lesbian families reported living in 52 percent of all counties.

— HRC estimates that the 2000 U.S. Census count of gay and lesbian

families could be undercounted as much as 62 percent.

— Gay and lesbian families live in 97 percent of all U.S. Census Bureau tracts ( 64,241 out of 66,304 ) .

"While the rise in couples suggests extraordinary progress, we believe the census continues to undercount same-sex partners because many people are still not comfortable answering in a federal survey about their sexual orientation," said Smith.

"The 2000 Census confirms that gay and lesbian families are present in virtually every corner of the nation," said Gary Gates, a research associate with the Urban Institute, a Washington-based non-partisan policy think tank specializing in statistical analysis and working with HRC on a special census project tracking same-sex partner households. "This suggests significant geographical diversity among America's gay and lesbian families and offers a rich source for future demographic research on a segment of our population that has unfortunately too often been ignored."

To date, the U.S. Census Bureau has only released counts of gay- and lesbian-coupled households, but as more information is released, HRC said it will be able to determine the number of children living in these households, income, racial profile, home ownership and other important demographics.


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