Our Families Count Expands for Census

Our Families Count Expands for Census
Photo: Mercè Bellera

You count. You really, really do. That’s the message Our Families Count—a voluntary public education campaign launched in the fall of 2009—is putting forth with gusto to all in the LGBT community. With the first week of March marking the launch of the 2010 U.S. Census, Our Families Count is making a valiant effort to reach out and gain endorsements from as many LGBT and straight-allied nonprofit groups, leaders and academics as possible.

That effort, which involves face-to-face and Internet social networking, has resulted in the expansion of endorsements by 80 members over the past two months. Some of those acquisitions were due in part to Our Families Count’s attendance at the 22nd National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change. Dallas hosted the conference the first week of February and catered to more than 2400 friends and colleagues—the largest conference since 1999.

Che Ruddell-Tabisola, the U.S. Census national LGBT partnership leader, is currently serving as a liaison between the U.S. Census Bureau and groups like Our Families Count. He is emphatic about making sure we stand up to be counted.

“Awakening our community about the importance of this Census is critical,” says Ruddell-Tabisola. “Whether raising children, coupled or single, LGBT citizens, families and households are the face of America, too. Through our visibility, we directly shape national policies on education, health, safety, immigration, taxes and much more.”

Does this mean the Census could ultimately affect legislation when it comes to issues like legalizing same-sex marriage or health insurance? No one could be reached in time to discuss the matter at length for this posting, but according to OurFamiliesCount.org, “The census creates an essential portrait of our nation every 10 years. These data are used to determine the distribution of seats in the House of Representatives and provides key population numbers for Congress and the administration to determine how federal dollars flow to the states and cities for health care, housing, and English as a second language classes.

“Census information is also used in the enforcement of an array of civil rights laws in employment, housing, voting, lending, education, and the availability of bilingual ballots and interpreters at poll sites. The census has a big impact on our political power and economic security.”

Dr. Gary Gates, Williams distinguished scholar, UCLA School of Law adds that since the 2000 U.S. Census, progress has been made in terms of how same-sex couples are counted.

“For instance, in Census 2000, same-sex couples who said that they were spouses were counted simply as “unmarried partners.” The Williams Institute played a key role in negotiations with Census that led to the decision to publish separate counts along with demographic characteristics of both same-sex spouses and unmarried partners as part of Census 2010.”

However, the Census does not yet ask questions about anyone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. “I completely support efforts to add such questions to a wide range of government surveys, including the Census,” says Gates.

Our Families Count represents a collaborative effort by leaders and community organizers across the LGBT and ally spectrum in America. It reports having just one mission: to educate and motivate all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans and households to be visible in 2010 by taking part in the 2010 U.S. Census.

Some of the groups Our Families Count recently partnered with include:

•    Alliance for Responsible Communities
•    Basic Rights Oregon
•    Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere (COLAGE)
•    Delaware Valley Legacy Fund
•    Equality Across America
•    Freedom to Marry
•    Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)
•    International Federation of Black Prides, Inc.
•    Lambda Legal
•    Mi Familia Vota, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
•    Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
•    PFLAG National
•    Rainbow Bridge Connection NLMCC
•     Safe Schools Coalition
•    Transgender American Veterans Association
•    Unid@s

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