I was one of the lucky few that got that astonishingly intrusive 40-pager the census bureau produced in 2000. Beyond the reasonable name, age, gender, race, nationality and citizenship, it inquired about my income and how much money I derived how, the identity of my employer, how much time I took off work and why, whether I had mental conditions, what I thought my property was worth, how many bathrooms I had, whether I'd like a nice backrub right now, and whether I knew how deeply the US government loved me, and wanted to learn every little detail about me because we were destined to be happy together forever, and hey — no they're not leaving, why am I being like this?
I exaggerate perhaps a tidge, but see http://www.census.gov/dmd/www/pdf/d02p.pdf, if you don't believe me.
If there's anything statisticians and psychologists should understand, it's "garbage in, garbage out." if you want accurate information, ask relevant questions. If you don't want people to claim to be wealthy midwestern Inuits, stop acting like freaky Patty "the Millionaire Matchmaker."
Next year is a census year, and like it or not, in the last decade there have been some pretty relevant and profound societal changes. Three states have same-sex marriage, other states have I-can't-believe-it's-not-marriage civil unions, spontaneous post-Prop-8 demonstrations, um, demonstrate that a substantial number of gay people would marry if they could, and I recall but cannot cite an estimate that something like 30% of all lesbians (a figure that approaches 95% in my personal experience), plus I can't remember how many gay men, have children with their long-term partners. I have also variously read that the GLBT population represents anywhere from a piddling 1% to a substantial 10% of the population.
So how does the census bureau intend to count this emerging demographic?
"This is all about the numbers. This not about lifestyle or anything else," says U.S. Census spokeswoman Cynthia Endo.
With all due respect, Ms Endo — that's bullshit.
If the census isn't about lifestyle, why did the census ask me what kind of job I had, what time I left for work, and what mode of transportation I used, and how long my commute was? Why did they need to know whether I had a condition that limited me physically? Why did they want to know if I'd recently been on vacation, how many hours I work a week, how many bedrooms my home has, and how many vehicles I own? Those are ALL "lifestyle" questions.
However, I'm almost certain that by "lifestyle," Ms Endo meant, "icky sinful homo sex."
So when Patty & Marcie and their daughter Sally, residents of a marriage-prohibition state, get their census next year, they must try to remember that they're not a family. Patty will be counted as a single-parent of Sally, Marcie's best choice is "unrelated, unmarried partner." Marcie's relationship to Sally? Irrelevant.
When Adam & Steve, legally married, get a census form, they'll probably be inclined to check the box marked "married." BZZZZT! The Feds don't recognize that marriage, thanks to that legendary marriage defender Bill Clinton. And those little scamps decide "screw you" and tick that box anyway, the census bureau has already stated they will change the response of any same-sex legally married couple to read "unmarried, living together." Nice try, boys.
Therefore, I can confidently provide this advance data from 2010 census:
1. Number of married same-sex couples in the United States: 02. Number of children living in home with two same-sex parents: 03. Number of GLBT Americans: 0
This is soooo going to make Mahmoud Ahmadinejad jealous.
Here's the problem: a lot of the argument against marriage equality and two-parent adoption is that the issue affects a statistically negligible segment of society, and there are more pressing issues that profoundly affect more Americans — like our urgent need to pass a Flag Burning Amendment.
Too crusty? Okay, I'll let a "Study Series Report" dated December 21, 2005, titled Report on Cognitive Testing of Cohabitation Questions by Jennifer Hunter of the Census Bureau's Statistical Research Division explain:
Data on marital status are used to produce statistics on marriage and divorce, as well as to provide information on the characteristics of America’s families. [S]tatistical agencies face an increased need to gather data...to get a more complete picture of family structure. Statistics on unwed births often include cases where biological parents are unmarried, but cohabiting. Cohabiting couples...are often categorized as single parents in statistical analyses. Additionally, gay and lesbian...households may look like single parent families, with no indication that the child has two parents in the household. Many researchers are interested in the impact of cohabitation on children’s well-being. In order to study this, we must be able to identify cohabiting couples with children.
The data is useful because it serves the purpose of research? Good heavens, Ms Hunter — that sounds so rational that I simply must caution you to avoid your colleague Cynthia Endo at all costs. Seriously, I fear for your career.
Besides the execrable Defense of Marriage Act, other federal law confines census questions to issues where there are federally funded studies. There are no federally funded LGBT studies, so there is no demand for any census data. Lather, rinse, repeat.
So what might a civilly disobedient citizen — who feels like the government doesn't otherwise believe they count — possibly do?
Gosh, I have no idea. It's illegal to incite people to break the law, so I'd never suggest that anyone ignore the census*. After all, federal law provides a devastating $100 fine for refusal and a $500 fine for providing bogus information. Two people were prosecuted for violating that law as recently as 1960.
Hypothetically speaking, what would happen if a particular segment of society sat this census out?
Our pals over at SCOTUS have held that only an actual head count can be used to apportion congressional seats — the census. This apportionment profoundly affects the political parties' balance of power at a federal, state, and local level, plus it stays that way for a decade.
The possibility of a party's losing seats generally, or an individual official losing his own seat specifically, is one thing that reliably gets politician's attention. Whether a particular powerless American minority amount to 1% or 10% of the population, no politician of any denomination would be willing to risk that many uncounted heads in their district.
Of course, I'm sure all Americans would cheerfully cooperate with the census if their representatives decided to, y'know — actually represent them this year and get some bad laws rescinded and some good laws in place.
Unlike election years, politicians would have to deliver on their pledges first. Hypothetically.
Too bad only six people read this blog.
*I emphasized that sentence for the sole purpose of being absolutely clear about what I'm not advising anybody to do, en masse.