Every 10 years, the U.S. Census counts every single person living in the country on April 1. The 2020 census will count same-sex couples who live together for the first time.
Previously, the census only included two options for people who cohabitate: “husband and wife” or “unmarried partner.” There were no questions regarding sexuality or same-sex partnership at all. Thus, the census was unable to gather accurate information on the LGBTQ+ population.
Advocacy groups have been fighting for the Census Bureau to explicitly include lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and queer people for years. In 2017, the Census Bureau considered including questions about sexuality and gender identity, but then called the inclusion a “mistake” and removed the questions.
Finally, same-sex couples will be counted in this year’s survey. People will be able to choose whether they live with their “opposite-sex husband/wife/spouse,” “same-sex husband/wife/spouse,” “opposite-sex unmarried partner,” or “same-sex unmarried partner.” The Census Bureau explained this change by saying that it’s “better to collect more detailed data about types of coupled households.”
The advocacy group Queer the Census praised the update, saying that it will improve knowledge about the “number of same-sex couples that are raising kids, the geography of where same-sex couples live, and the race and ethnicity of people in same-sex couples.”
However, questions about sexuality and gender identity still won’t be included in the census.
“The data we get from the census won’t be representative of everyone in our community,” explained Meghan Maury, policy director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, which runs the Queer the Census campaign.
“We want LGBTQ folks to know that census data are used to allocate political power,” Maury added. Census data is used to help allocate over $675 billion in federal funds, for everything from public housing to job training services.
Census forms are already beginning to arrive at U.S. households in the mail; these packets include instructions for filling in the online form at my2020census.gov.