RALEIGH — Equality NC (ENC) reports on their website that LGBT participation in this year’s Census is essential. In the last Census, North Carolina was reported as one of the fastest-growing states, yet it also had a sub-average response, meaning the growth was underreported. Census data is critical to many aspects of government and social services and it directly affects what services are offered and to whom.

The Census occurs every 10 years. It is a constitutional requirement.

Census data is 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 assorted needs.

This year the form asks simple questions and does not get into relationship issues, etc., that were on the longer forms of years past. Respondents are asked to supply their name, sex, age, date of birth, whether they are of Hispanic origin, race, household relationship, own/rent, telephone number and number of people living in the household as of Census Day, April 1. There is room for more family members in the form to capture their data.

The U.S. Census listened to the public and created a separate form that is mailed to some, but not all, households and group quarters that captures far more detail than the 2010 Census. It is call The American Community Survey. Check to see if you received one or both forms and use the information below to assist you in your replies.

For the Survey, many same-sex couples may wonder how to describe their relationship. The U.S. Census Bureau asks us to tell the truth as we understand it. So, if you consider your partner your “unmarried partner,” check that box. If you consider your partner to be your spouse or if you have married your same-sex spouse in any state, you may choose the “husband or wife” option and the Bureau will record and report on these figures in it’s official Census tables on married couples in the U.S.

If you are partnered, ENC encourages you to identify your relationship.

According to Lee Badgett, research director at The Williams Institute of the UCLA School of Law, “Census data have done more to make LGBT families and their needs visible than any other source of data we have.”

Obviously LGBT folks have privacy concerns. The coming out process is a very personal one, and people are at different points in it, from totally closeted to totally out. The Census, however, ensures absolute confidentiality through Title 13. In the past two decades of offering the “unmarried partner” box, there have been no repercussions against LGBT individual or families.

Also, no census data are shared with the Immigration and Naturalization Service or in any way used to target individuals and families for law enforcement purposes.

The Census was mailed out in March and will continue for several months. If you did not receive a form, call the Telephone Questionnaire Assistance center at 866-872-6868. Spanish-speaking operators are available at 866-928-2010. Hearing-impaired respondents can dial TDD 866-783-2010. Lines will be open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. everyday through July 30.

For further information, check out Our Families Count at ourfamiliescount.org and Queer The Census at queerthecensus.org.

Lainey Millen

Lainey Millen was formerly QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director from 2001-2019 when she retired.