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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 19, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 42
Let me count the Gays
Section One
ALL STORIES
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Let me count the Gays

Census Bureau forms new panel to improve LGBT data collection

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The U.S. Census Bureau announced October 12 that it was creating a National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations to advise it 'on topics such as housing, children, youth, poverty, privacy, race, and ethnicity, as well as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and other populations.'

The 31-member committee will advise the Census Bureau on 'a wide range of variables that affect the cost, accuracy, and implementation of the Census Bureau's programs and surveys, including the once-a-decade census,' the bureau said in a statement.

The committee includes two experts on LGBT populations. Shane Snowdon heads HRC's LGBT Health and Aging Program, and Charlotte Patterson is a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. According to her UVA bio, she is 'best known for her studies of child development in the context of Lesbian- and Gay-parented families.' The Census Bureau said that the panel members were chosen 'based on expertise and knowledge of the cultural patterns, issues, and/or statistical needs of hard-to-count populations.'

HRC's vice president of communications, Fred Sainz, told BuzzFeed blog, 'Shane Snowdon's experience with data collection and engaging the LGBT community will make her a valuable asset to the Census Bureau. We are proud that she will be serving on this committee and ensuring that our families are counted.'

HISTORIC FIRST
In a statement announcing the committee's formation, Census Bureau Acting Director Thomas Mesenbourg said, 'We expect that the expertise of this committee will help us meet emerging challenges the Census Bureau faces in producing statistics about our diverse nation.'

The U.S. Census has never counted LGBT people directly, but it has indirectly accounted for LGBT people through its count of same-sex married couples and 'unmarried partner' households.

Although the Census Bureau did not explicitly say it would begin to count LGBT people directly through questions about sexual orientation or gender identity, or even that a direct count of LGBT Americans might be under consideration, LGBT advocates say this is the first Census Bureau advisory committee that specifically includes consideration of LGBT populations in its mission.

Gary Gates, a prominent scholar on LGBT populations with UCLA's Williams Institute, was named to the Census Bureau's Scientific Advisory Committee in 2011, but that committee's mission does not specifically include LGBT issues.

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