WaPo Slams U.S. Census Bureau for Upholding Federal Marriage Law

A Washington Post article today quotes three people who oppose the U.S. Census Bureau's decision not to recognize as marriages same-sex marriages in Massachusetts and California in the 2010 census, but only one supporter, and one Census Bureau official who explains the relevant law.

Same-sex couples who have been married legally in Massachusetts and California will be recorded as “unmarried partners” in the 2010 census in accordance with the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman.

Post reporter Christopher Lee quotes Diane Curtis, a woman married to another woman in Massachusetts, who said she was “disgusted” by the decision. Then he continues to build a case against the Census Bureau by citing two authorities who oppose the decision.

U.S. Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts says, “Unfortunately the stupidity and unfairness of that law gives [the census] something of a colorable argument.”  He continues, “It was aimed very specifically at this.  It's all the more reason to repeal it. . . . What is it accomplishing by not having an accurate count?  It's not even good demographic policy.”

Lee goes on to devote three paragraphs to arguments against the decision raised by Gary Gates, a demographer at the UCLA School of Law and author of the Gay and Lesbian Atlas. Lee quotes Gates: “It limits our ability to get quality information. . . . In 2000, the census could very legitimately make the argument that with a same-sex couple, someone couldn't [legally] be a husband or wife.  And so they were making an inaccurate response accurate by changing them to an 'unmarried partner.'  The situation now is different.  You are changing potentially accurate responses to inaccurate responses.” 

Lee's sop to balance is a statement by Peter Sprigg, vice president for policy at the nonprofit Family Research Council: “We believe that marriage is intrinsically the union of a man and a woman.”  He continues, “The reason marriage is a public institution in the first place is that it brings together men and women for the reproduction of the human race and to encourage mothers and fathers to cooperate in raising to maturity the children produced by their union.”

Lee concludes by returning to the Massachusetts lesbian:  “Curtis says that the decision is like something out of the Cold War era.  'It's like we've been Photoshopped out of the picture…How long is the federal government going to pretend we don't exist?'” 

Julia Seward is an intern at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.