The U.S. Census Bureau, on Tuesday, issued the first federal count of same-sex partners living together. The figure has doubled over the past decade; at least 131,729 gay and lesbian couples have registered as husband or wife. The number has risen from 650,000.
The same-sex couples checked the husband or wife boxes on their 2010 census forms, after Massachusetts became the first State to legalize gay marriage in 2004.
The District of Columbia issued marriage certificates to same-sex couples during the census data compilation. The certificates were issued in five states - Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.
It's the first time they've released counts of couples who use the terms husband and wife, Gary Gates, a demographer with the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at the University of California told USA Today. Gates is one of the experts who reviewed the census data.
The data released on Tuesday is a revision of an earlier estimates that was released in summer. The Census Bureau originally reported that there were 349,377 married gay and lesbian couples and 552,620 unmarried same-sex couples who lived together. These reports were caused by coding errors that resulted in an exaggerated tally.
“The 2010 census data was derived from two questions -- the relationship to householder and the sex of each person,” the agency said in a statement. The agency also said that the wrong box may have been checked by heterosexual couples, unnaturally inflating the numbers of same-sex couples in the U.S.
As scientists, we noticed the inconsistency and developed revised estimates to provide a more accurate portrait of the number of same-sex couples. We're providing all three -- the revised, original and ACS [American Community Survey] estimates -- together to provide users with the full, transparent picture of our current measurement of same-sex couples, said Census Bureau Director Robert Groves.
However, attitudes are evolving and he expects higher numbers in the next Census count in 2020. It's only been in the last few years we're actually beginning to see legal recognition of same-sex couples where the idea of being a formal couple has made its way through the population, he said.
According to 2010 ACS survey, the number of married same-sex couples was 152,335 and there were 440,989 unmarried same-sex couples. The agency data shows that the number of same-sex couples has increased significantly from the adjusted 2000 figure of 358,390.
In 2010, about 51 percent of the couples were female and nearly one in five gay couples, nationwide, were reported to be raising children.
Washington D.C. was reported with the highest number of both married and unmarried same-sex couples, at almost 2 percent. It was followed by Vermont, Massachusetts, California, Oregon, Delaware, New Mexico and Washington State.
Last week, United States became the 30th country to allow gays and lesbian to openly serve in its armed forces.