Census Bureau says federal law prohibits counting gay couples as married
NEW YORK — Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council speaker are urging federal census officials to include same-sex marriages in the 2010 count, an issue that has taken on greater significance in recent weeks as more gay couples are being allowed to marry.
The federal law banning gay marriage bars the agency from counting same-sex marriages, the Census Bureau says, even though they are legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and, most recently, Vermont and Iowa.
Last summer, census officials announced that legally married same-sex couples would be reported as unmarried, same-sex partners.
In the April 7 letter to Gary Locke, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, which oversees the Census Bureau, Bloomberg and Christine Quinn wrote that counting same-sex marriages is crucial for state and local officials who use census data to plan for programs and social services.
"Although we understand that federal law may not recognize same-sex marriages for the purposes of administration of federal benefits programs," they wrote, "we do not believe it prevents the Census Bureau from reporting statistics from the forms of self-identifying same-sex couples married under state law, like all married couples."
The bureau’s current policy, Bloomberg and Quinn argue, "could discourage" gays and lesbians from participating in next year’s count.
New York doesn’t allow same-sex marriage but recognizes such unions from other states.
Nick Kimball, a Commerce Department spokesman, said Thursday, April 9 that the Census Bureau says the agency is reviewing its policies to ensure an accurate count.
Any attempt to classify same-sex marriages as such in the census would likely prompt a legal challenge, said Tom McClusky, vice president of the legislative arm of the Family Research Council, which opposes same-sex marriage.
"Even though President Obama wants to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, that has not happened," McClusky said. "He is bound by it."
Last July, when Census officials said gay marriages wouldn’t be counted as such, only two states allowed gay marriage: California and Massachusetts. Since then, voters in California have approved a ban on same-sex marriages.
On Tuesday, the state House in Vermont narrowly achieved the votes necessary to override Gov. Jim Douglas’ veto of a bill allowing gays and lesbians to marry beginning Sept. 1.
Last week, Iowa’s Supreme Court unanimously struck down that state’s gay marriage ban, allowing same-sex couples to file for licenses beginning April 27 and wed as soon as April 30. Massachusetts and Connecticut also allow same-sex marriage.
Quinn is the council’s first openly gay speaker. Last month, Bloomberg reaffirmed his support for gay marriage.