Census officials are urging gay and
lesbian couples to count their unions as a marriage – even those
not legally married.
It's the first time the Census Bureau
is encouraging gay couples to ditch checking the “unmarried
partner” box in favor of “husband” or “wife” if they
consider themselves married.
Gay couples can marry in only five
states – Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont and
Iowa – and the District of Columbia. Maine was the first state to
legislatively legalize gay marriage, but voters repealed the law
before it took effect.
Census officials were joined Monday by
openly lesbian New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and
Star Trek star George Takei and his husband Brad Altman at the
LGBT Center in New York City.
At the press event, officials also
unveiled a series of official public service announcements geared to
the LGBT community.
One features Takei and Altman
encouraging gay and lesbian couples to claim married status.
“This is the first time in history
the Census is counting marriages like ours,” an enthusiastic Altman
says in the PSA.
“It doesn't matter whether you have a
legal marriage license or not,” Takei adds. “It only matters if
you consider yourself married.”
Takei told reporters that the change
would help secure gay rights.
“We pay taxes, we vote, we serve in
the military and yet we don't have equality,” he said. “To get
that equality, it's very important for us to be identified. This is
what the census is going to do.”
Opponents of gay marriage criticized
the move, saying it redefines marriage.
“We're treating the gay community the
same as other segments of the population,” Tim Olson, a Census
Bureau assistant division chief, said at the event “There's a
respect factor there. … We've never asked people to show us their
marriage licenses. We don't do that for straight people.”
Other videos feature Harry Knox,
director of Religion and Faith Program at the Human Rights Campaign,
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for
Transgender Equality, Earl Fowlkes, president and CEO of the
International Federation of Black Prides, and Ben de Guzman,
co-director for programming at National Queer Asian Pacific Islander
Alliance, encouraging everyone to be counted.