The Census is here. My office has been dealing with a range of questions about the form. Here is one of the most important ones: Suppose you are a same-sex couple living in Missouri. How should you fill out the US Census form?
If you have legally married your same-sex spouse in any state, you may choose to check the "husband or wife'? option, and the Census will record and report on these figures in its official Census tables on married couples in the U.S. Not every legally married same-sex couple will want to do so, since the term "husband or wife" is imprecise. The fact is that the Census has always been slow at responding to evolving language usages and changing social realities. For years, for example, the Census provided no good way for people of multiracial origins to record their races accurately. As annoyed as the "husband or wife'? phrase may make you, I agree with those in the community who say that choosing that option may be an important first step in changing the way the country understands LGBT partnership. If you are legally married, why miss out on being counted that way?
Some same-sex couples may check the "unmarried partner'? box on the form. That, too, is also an important thing to do. Last year, the American Community Survey reported a significant decline in same sex couples. This is partly because the ACS had been improperly recording some opposite-couples as same sex, due to poor survey design. Failing to select the "unmarried partner'? box results in the LGBT community being undercounted and, possibly, misunderstood.
The fact is that few federal surveys record any information whatsoever about LGBT people. The Census recording of same-sex unmarried partners and married couples gives a useful, and too rare, glimpse at an important part of the St. Louis community. Please use it.