April 6, 2010 | Miami Herald | Original Article

Census: Gay couples should check 'married' if that's how they view relationship, transgender people should choose the sex they identify with

Wanting a more accurate count of sexual minorities in the United States, national gay rights leaders have launched a campaign to "Queer the Census."

Even the U.S. Census Bureau is on board, releasing videos Monday that advise same-sex couples to choose "married'' status if that's how they view their relationships, and tell transgender people to check off the sex they identify with -- not necessarily their legal or birth genders.

 "We've been very public about our interaction with the gay community," said Timothy P. Olson, assistant division chief for the Census' field division. "I'm a gay man and I head up the overall program."

The Census quietly began asking unmarried partner status 20 years ago and "a small number'' of same-sex couples came forward, Olson said.

In 2000, "There were same-sex couples found in 97 percent of all counties in the United States. That's a remarkable number because in 2000 there was very little, if any, awareness or outreach to the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community," he said.

Even though the numbers were collected, the Census wasn't allowed to fully report it, Olson said.

"The [George W. Bush] administration was very firm that the Defense of Marriage Act prohibited the Census Bureau from releasing any information about same-sex couples," he said. "The new administration reversed that."

 In a news conference Monday, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a lesbian, said she and other gay leaders would begin lobbying Congress to include sexual orientation on the 2020 Census.

"We want to be seen and heard, and filling out the Census form is the first step in making that happen," Quinn said.

Olson said that all 4,000 Census outreach workers throughout the United States have been trained to collect data on LGBT people.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is one of 200 Census group participants and last week launched its "Queer the Census'' campaign, encouraging gay people and their allies to send back Census forms with special pink stickers affixed to the backs of return envelopes.

Also, the Census has posted a half-dozen videos from gay community leaders, including one in Spanish, on its website and on YouTube.

Star Trek's Mr. Sulu is part of the campaign. Actor George Takei, who two years ago married longtime partner Brad Altman in California, said at the news conference Monday that they sent back their form "as husbands and husbands."

They have done their own Census video, in which Takei wears his old Star Trek uniform and Altman has a "silly'' foil cap on his head.

"We wanted to do our PSA in a way that would reach as many people as possible," Takei said. "We want to help Americans go where they've never gone before: to full equality for the LGBT community."