April 1 is National Census Day and it’s not an April Fool’s Joke – the Census will be counting LGBT families.

By Gary J. Gates, Williams Distinguished Scholar,
Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law

LGBT families need to be visible and counted in the 2010
Census.  Census data gives a snapshot of the LGBT community and
informs many of the public and private policies that impact the
lives of LGBT individuals and their families.  The Census is a
deciding factor in many areas of life – how we’re represented
in government, funding levels for hospitals, schools, roads, and
community centers, and researchers use it to find out more about
our community.  Data from the Census has been used to estimate the
impact of bans against LGBT adoption, to give light to the number
of LGBT people living in poverty, and to make the case for marriage

This year, for the first time, the Census will release
counts of both same-sex spouses and same-sex unmarried partners. 
In the past, the Census Bureau combined these two groups, counting
all same-sex couples as unmarried partners.  But for 2010, the
Census will report the number of same-sex couples who identify
themselves as spouses and the number who use the term “unmarried

When your form arrives, if you’re part of a same-sex
couple and you’ve been legally married or you see yourselves as
spouses, you should identify one person as a “husband or
wife.”  Other same-sex couples may feel more comfortable using
the term “unmarried partner.”  This term identifies couples
who are in a “close personal relationship” but aren’t legally
married or do not think of themselves as spouses.

If you are a bi-racial/ethnic couple, you might want to
also want to be aware that some government statistics classify
households by race and ethnicity.  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

While the Census doesn’t ask questions about sexual
orientation or gender identity (so there won’t be data about
single LGBT people), the data collected in the Census are vitally
important in helping us to understand the diversity and complexity
of the LGBT community.  We must all do everything we can to make
sure that our families are visible and counted.

For more information about LGBT people and Census 2010,
go to the Williams Institute’s Census information web page

You can also get information at
www.ourfamiliescount.org.  Both websites include materials in English and

Have follow up questions for Gary Gates?

Ask him at the Family Equality Council
2010 Census Teleconference
on March 16, 2010 at 4pm
(eastern time). Experts from the research field, federal agencies,
and social justice organizations will come together live to answer
your questions about LGBT families and the 2010 Census. Experts
will include:

  • Don
    Oellerich, Deputy Chief Economist, Office of Human Services Policy,
    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation,
    Department of Health and Human Services
  • Laura M. Waldon,
    LGBT Partnership Specialist, U.S. Census Bureau
  • Gary J. Gates,
    Williams Distinguished Scholar, Williams Institute, UCLA School of
  • Kara S.
    Suffredini, Director of Public Policy and Community Engagement,
    Family Equality Council

To RSVP, email our Director of Public
Policy, Kara Suffredini, at