Press

New Census Figures Show Dramatic Increase in Same-Sex Partner Households

Date: 
June 13, 2001

First figures out of Delaware, Vermont demonstrate increasingly diverse face of the 21st Century family

Figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau today show a dramatic and unprecedented increase in the number of reported same-sex partner households in the states of Delaware and Vermont. The new statistics reveal the most comprehensive picture ever recorded of the changing nature of the U.S. family in the 21st Century.

Figures show a 781 percent increase since 1990 in the number of people reporting that they are part of a same-sex partner household in Delaware, and show more than a 400 percent increase in Vermont. In Delaware, just 212 households reported same-sex partnerships in the year 1990; this time, that number has increased to 1,868. In Vermont, the figure went from 370 in 1990 to 1,933 in 2000.

"For the first time ever, government has begun documenting the 21st Century family," said Lorri L. Jean, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "The dramatic increase in same-sex partner households reflected in these first Census figures shows that one of our primary mandates is to ensure that every gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender family receives the same services, benefits and treatment given to other families."

Paula Ettelbrick, NGLTF’s family policy director, noted that the U.S. Census does not count single GLBT people, but since 1990 has counted unmarried, same-sex partner households. In 1990, the category of "unmarried partner" appeared on the Census form for the first time. Approximately 150,000 households nationwide self-reported as same-sex unmarried partners – a severe undercount compounded by the U.S. Census Bureau's disqualification of same-sex couples who marked "spouse" to describe their relationship. This year, Ettelbrick noted, the Census reported that it would change same-sex partners who marked "spouse" to "unmarried partner," resulting in a better count.

"The Census numbers reflect the changing face of our society," Ettelbrick said. "As a community, we clearly shifted our focus in the 1990s to securing our family relationships through domestic partner benefits, adoption rights and same-sex marriage. The Census numbers mirror the unprecedented rise in the visibility of our families during the past decade."

The figures released today show that in Delaware there are a total of 298,726 households. Of these, 18,298 are "unmarried partner" households. Of the 18,298, 10.2 percent, or 1,868, are same-sex unmarried partner households.

In Vermont, the Census reported a total of 240,634 households. Of these, 18,079 households are "unmarried partner." Of the 18,079 unmarried partner households, 10.7 percent, or 1,933 households, are same-sex unmarried partner households.

The data from Delaware and Vermont is the first data released by the U.S. Census Bureau this year that addresses unmarried partner households. On Wednesday, June 20, U.S. Census Bureau officials will release similar data for Connecticut, the District of Colombia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska and Nevada. A schedule for the remaining states has not been announced yet.

"Public policy flows from the U.S. Census," Jean explained. "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. We also sacrifice important opportunities for more equitable political representation of our community."

During the spring of 2000, the NGLTF Policy Institute and the Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies sponsored a nationwide campaign called Make Your Family Count!. This public education campaign, which reached approximately 18 million newspaper readers, was aimed at encouraging same-sex couples within GLBT communities to be counted in the U.S. Census.

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.