Gay rights activists and allies may have received some valuable data today regarding just how many same sex couples there are here in America. Based off of data collected from the 2010 Census Bureau, the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles released the results of its study in the determining the number of couples who define their relationship as a same sex partnership or marriage living in the same household.
The research shows an incredible number that there are at least 901,997 same sex couples living all across America in small to large cities and towns. The results also gave an insight on how many of these couples are raising children together.
With the 2010 Census, we saw the first year where gay and lesbian couples were officially counted. Despite there being no question in the 2010 census asking people directly if they were gay or lesbian, the census did count people of the same sex living together who marked the boxes for husband and wife or unmarried partner regardless if the state of residence was one where same sex marriages we not legally recognized.
The groundbreaking research though is not without some possible minor inaccuracies. In the released study the Williams Institute does state:
“The reported number of same-sex couples in the United States and the associated figure for same-sex couples per 1,000 households are based on official Census tabulations. These tabulations may not be completely accurate. A Williams Institute study found that at least 15% of same-sex couples were not counted in Census 2010 as some same-sex couples are reluctant to disclose their relationship on their Census surveys or live in a home where neither partner was Person 1. Williams Institute research also suggests that as many as 25% of the recorded same-sex couples in Census 2010 may be different-sex married couples who made an error on the Census form and miscoded the sex of one spouse, making them appear to be a same-sex married couple.”
Despite the fact that there may be some slight errors, as more states move towards marriage equality it is a safe assumption that the number will only increase rather than decrease and the study itself is the first of its kind to give the most accurate snapshot of the number gay and lesbian couples living in America. This information is useful in the advancement of gay rights as numbers often speak volumes when developing new policies and laws.
Gary Gates, a demographer at the Williams Institute said,
“The fact that the census is very publicly beginning to acknowledge the need for this kind of data, that’s a big deal. Those who work to expand civil rights and legal protections for same-sex couples say having some sort of baseline count helps their efforts.”
Brian Moulton, Chief legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign said of the significance of the study,
“It’s hard to advocate for a group of people when you can’t say with certainty how many of them are in our communities. This helps us better quantify the economic harm to same-sex couples and how many people are affected by decisions to deny them the rights and benefits of marriage, especially those associated Human Rights Campaign with federal law.”
Richard Socarides, President of the gay rights advocacy group Equality Matters stated that Williams Institutes finding is significant but that there is also a great need for a complete calculation of the total number of gay and lesbians in America since the Census only counted couples living together .
“Any data is better than no data, so I think there is some data that might be helpful for researchers and statisticians. But from a political perspective, until they agree to count the LBGT community in its entirety, I’m not going to be satisfied.”
The Williams Institute did release a study back in April of this year which estimated that there are nearly 9 million Americans. Key findings in the study found that “an estimated 3.5% of adults in the United States identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual and an estimated 0.3% of adults are transgender”
Although the Williams Institute April study is useful information, it is not a complete account of gay and lesbians living in America as youth are not counted as well as individuals who did not openly identify themselves as gay in the study.
The complete newly released study can be found at : http://www3.law.ucla.edu/williamsinstitute/pdf/Census2010Snapshot_US.pdf