07 April 2010

Cart, horse, etc.

I wrote about the census in March of last year, complaining that certain couples in legal marriages will not be counted as a married due to the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act, (the law Obama chooses to defend.)
Apparently, last July the Obama Administration quietly — and I mean really goddam quietlydetermined that the Secretary of Commerce has sufficient statutory discretion to decide how to compile census data, and DOMA doesn't require the census bureau to edit gay people's data.
Now, when I say this policy change was quiet, I mean I didn't know about it. I must've been absent that day. I'm not embarrassed to admit I didn't know it either, since full-time US Census employees that I spoke to at a Census Bureau festival booth in August 2009 were also unaware of this policy change, and it's their profession. When Beloved and I confronted the three census employees with regard to the policy of "editing away" gay marriages, all of them just sputtered for a while until they retreated into "hey man, we just work there."
Okay, the deadline to return census forms was April 1, 2010.
So this is certainly puzzling:
MEDIA ADVISORY: Census Bureau to Unveil 2010 Census LGBT PSAs with Actor George Takei and Honorable Christine Quinn
Historic ceremony to mark new chapter in Census Bureau outreach to LGBT community
New York, NY – On Monday, April 5th, the U.S. Census Bureau will officially present a series of six public service announcement (PSA) videos, which will comprise the first-ever round of Census video communications specifically focused on encouraging the LGBT community to fill out and mail back their census forms. Each of the six videos features a different well-respected community leader appealing to the LGBT community. The videos can be found on the Census Bureau’s YouTube page: www.youtube.com/user/uscensusbureau# and at www.2010Census.gov in the Multimedia section.
Four days after the Census deadline, the Census Bureau is going to explain how and why LGBT citizens should participate in the census?
Good Christ.
I watched a few of the videos, but they were pretty terrible. The ones I watched didn't actually answer the questions, "Does 'unmarried partner' presume 'straight couples who choose not to marry' or 'gay couples who are barred from marriage,' or both, and if so, does it make sense to lump the two together?" and "If my state of residence disregards my legal out-of-state marriage, what is my marital status?" and "How can I report that I'm gay or trans if I'm single or don't live with my partner?" and "Federal law requires honesty in responding to the census even as other federal law punishes military personnel for honesty, which law should I follow if I'm a servicemember?"
I tried to find answers to these questions by poking around the Census 2010 website, http://2010.census.gov. I looked in "questionnaire assistance center"? Nothing. Is it in "questions you may have"? No. "Partners"? Heh, no. Went to search box, typed in "gay marriage" — zero returns.
Fun! This is like an SAT question.
Went to www.census.gov and looked around. Ah-ha! "special topics." No. "Minority links"? No. Went to search box, typed in "gay marriage" and got a bunch of research reports. "FAQs" returned 65 pages of links. Searched within for "gay", got information on data collection and links to some tabulated data.
Seriously, nobody is going to go to this kind of trouble to figure out how to properly fill out a form.
This administration's policy is — for the purposes of the census only — "you is what you say you are." Thus, even where a gay couple is legally barred from marriage, should they choose put an X in the "married" box, they'll now be counted as a married couple. This, of course, totally screws up the data by inflating the number of legally married gay Americans.
Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled that some gay Americans are finally being counted. But must it be done in an utterly halfassed, haphazard fashion?

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