The U.S. Census Bureau recently submitted to Congress the planned questions for the 2020 census which is expected to allow respondents to specify if they are part of a same-sex couple.


NBC News reports that a census spokesperson credits the 2015 Supreme Court decision of Obergefell v Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage, for the change.


“As our population and communities change, so do their needs,” a Census Bureau spokesperson told NBC News via email. “To better collect more detailed data about types of coupled households, the Census Bureau expanded the single response option of ‘husband or wife’ or ‘unmarried partner’ to the two response options of ‘opposite-sex husband/wife/spouse’ and ‘same-sex husband/wife/spouse,’ and ‘opposite-sex unmarried partner’ and ‘same-sex unmarried partner.’”


The change is “a step in the right direction,” according to Meghan Maury, policy director at the D.C. based National LGBTQ Task Force and member of the Census Bureau’s National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations.


However, Maury also says that the change is “nowhere near what we’d love to have one day.”


The Census Bureau has been called on to include questions about sexual orientation and gender identity in the 2020 census, but the Census Bureau announced that it found “no federal data need” for such inquiries. This fails to identify LGBTQ+ individuals who are single, bisexual and/or transgender. 


For example, a bisexual in an opposite-sex relationship would be categorized as straight, while a bisexual in a same-sex relationship is categorized as gay/lesbian. Those who are trans and non-binary are not recognized at all. Relationships that are solely categorized with “same-sex” or “opposite-sex” still exclude a large majority of those who identify in the LGBTQ+ community.


Still, the National LGBTQ Task Force says it’s important for all LGBTQ+ people to take part in the 2020 census. “Over-counts of privileged people and undercounts of marginalized people reinforce systems of power and oppression in this country,” the Task Force said in a statement.


Gallup estimates that about 4.5% (more than 11 million adults) of Americans identify as LGBTQ+, with that figure estimated to rise in the future.


Previously, researchers counted same-sex couples by cross-referencing answers from the respondents relationship status and gender, however, when people accidentally made a mistake on the gender box, it leads to an exaggerated reporting of same-sex couples. The new format is expected to give a more accurate accounting of same-sex couples in the United States.


Census Bureau researchers hope that the options "same-sex husband/wife/spouse" and "same-sex unmarried partner" will help improve policy making about LGBTQ+ couples.


The census is used to allocate more than $675 billion in federal funding each year for  schools, hospitals, roads, public works and other vital programs, according to the Census Bureau website.


“We need to be counted so our communities can: Get access to federal funds for programs like SNAP, Medicaid, and public housing; have representation in our state, local, and federal government; and enforce our civil rights,” the National LGBTQ Task Force said.



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