The U.S. Census Bureau released its first figures documenting a dramatic increase in same-sex partner households in Delaware and Vermont. Delaware reported only 212 same-sex partner households in 1990, and Vermont reported 370. The 2000 Census figures indicate that Delaware has now reported 1,868 such households, and Vermont has increased its numbers to 1,933.
The increase in reporting may be partly attributed to methods used by the Census Bureau. In 1990, the Bureau added “unmarried partner” as a category on its forms to describe a same-sex relationship. Same-sex couples, however, who used “spouse” to describe their relationships were disqualified by the Bureau. In counting the 2000 Census, the Bureau will count same-sex spouses as unmarried partners, thereby getting a better indication of same-sex partner households in general.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies also implemented a nationwide public education campaign, Make Your Family Count, aimed at encouraging same-sex couples to identify themselves on the Census. “If we are not counted, we lose out on federal funding for research, funding for community services and passage of laws that benefit our community,” said NGLTF president Lorri Jean. Despite an increase in reporting, however, some fear that same-sex partner households were still under-reported because some respondents were unsure if their responses would be kept confidential. The Census Bureau will release its data for all 50 states by late August.