The Next Census Will Ask About Same-Sex Couples

The 2020 census will ask couples residing in U.S. households to define their relationship in a new way: “same-sex” or “opposite-sex.”

The question ― the first serious attempt by the Census Bureau to identify the number of LGBTQ couples in America ― was noted in a Thursday report to Congress by the bureau. You can read that report here.

Wendy Becker, who married her longtime partner, Mary Norton, in Massachusetts in 2006, told NPR that she welcomes the change.

“It really normalizes our experience on an American government form so that everybody looking at it and everybody filling it out sees that we exist,” said Becker, who is part of an early census test run in Rhode Island.

Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution requires that a population count be taken every 10 years. The first census was taken in 1790; the 2020 census will be the 24th count.

The data gathered in the census is used for reapportioning seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and calculating the distribution of federal funds to state and local governments. The number of representatives allocated to each state also determines the number of electors each state has in a presidential election.

By law, the Census Bureau cannot share answers from individual persons with the CIA, FBI, Internal Revenue Service or any other government agency.

Cecilia Chung, senior director of strategic projects for the Transgender Law Center, told NPR that she’d like to see the Census Bureau add additional questions about sexual orientation and gender identity.

“You know, these are all labels,” Chung said. “But if we don’t have the proper labels when we try to look at the picture, there will be a lot of missing pieces, like jigsaw puzzles.”