Every ten years, a Census is held in the United States, aiming to count the entire population of the country and determine the location of each resident. Questions asked include 1) how many people live/stay in each home, and the sex, age, and race of each resident. The goal is simple: to count everyone, at least once, only once, and in the right place.
The results of each Census determine the Federal funds, grants, and support allocated to each state, meaning that communities benefit the most when everyone is counted and reported accurately. Census data also helps businesses decide where to build factories, offices, and stores to maximize profit and create new jobs. Developers determine where to build new homes and when to revitalize neighbourhoods. Local governments use the data to prep for public safety awareness and emergency situations.
But what about when it comes to relationship data?
For the first time ever, the 2020 U.S. Census will ask couples to define their relationship as “same-sex” or “opposite-sex.” Talk about a huge step for the LGBT community! These extra few checkboxes go a long way in accurately recognizing same-sex relationships and the percentages of those engaged in them.
Thomas Jefferson created and led the first Census in 1790, one year after President George Washington’s inauguration, and shortly before the first United States Congress’s session ended. Jefferson’s version posed few questions: the name of (or the relationship to) the head of household, gender, race, and the number of slaves owned. A relationship status question was not added until 1880, and it took until 1990 to receive an “unmarried partner” option (y’know, since premarital cohabitation was frowned upon back in the day).
Now, the Census’s relationship options will shift again for accuracy’s sake, in order to gain a fair glimpse into current relationships in the United States.
The most-recent 2010 Census only gave citizens the options of “husband or wife” or “unmarried partner”. Luckily, the 2020 Census breaks down the relationship category into more-detailed options: opposite-sex husband/wife/spouse, opposite-sex unmarried partner, same-sex husband/wife/spouse, and same-sex unmarried partner.
Since most states did not recognize same-sex marriages at the time of the 2010 Census, those who were in same-sex partnerships were ultimately marked as “unmarried partner,” whether they were actually married or not. As someone who knows many happy same-sex partnerships and same-sex spouses, this was a big flub.
If you have a marriage certificate, then you are a married individual. Your genitals and the genitals of your partner do not influence this. A marriage is a marriage. My friends that are in same-sex relationships experience all of the same milestones as opposite-sex partnerships. They buy their first homes. They handle their finances. They have/adopt children. They flourish under the umbrella of true love.
To mark someone experiencing the joys of marriage as an “unmarried partner” invalidates the entire point of a Census: to gain an accurate look at the citizens of the United States Of America and how their lives are lived. As a result, any survey based on 2010 Census data that spewed the headline “The number of unmarried partnerships in the United States has grown!” is inaccurate and false (sorry, fellow journalists!).
It will be interesting to see how the percentages of married, unmarried, and single populations changes with the 2020 results. The simple addition of these new options provides a more accurate look into the breakdown of relationships in the U.S., and it portrays those relationships with detail, unlike the years prior. The LGBT community will finally get the recognition that it deserves in the form of an official survey from a government organization.
Not only is this a huge step for same-sex couples, but for their children as well. According to the data planned for the 2020 Census, “a question about the relationship of each person in a household to one central person is used to create estimates about families, households, and other groups”.
In other words, this allows the government to understand if a household needs additional assistance.
The purpose of the relationship category is to dictate how much money the government can allocate to programs that provide special funds or services to families in need. By finally recognizing same-sex couples as married couples, the government can use these results to determine money allotment more accurately and factually throughout a neighbourhood or district.
No one is naïve enough to think that people aren’t still out there who see same-sex relationships as illegitimate, sinful, and/or “just plain wrong”, but it is great to watch as equality slowly rolls out toward all human beings. Whether a religious leader agrees with one’s relationship or not should have no bearing on how they are allowed to live their lives.
We’ve seen interracial relationships become the norm. We’ve seen unmarried partnerships become the norm. Now, it’s time for same-sex relationships to finally achieve that same recognition so that all love can truly foster.
This isn’t “liberal psychobabble”.
This is equality.
And the changes coming to the 2020 Census are definitely a step in the right direction.