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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Religious Right Discovers New Way to Freak Out Over the Census

If you look at the Baptist Press's masthead banner, you find out that they deliver "News with a Christian Perspective." Run by the ultra-conservative Southern Baptist Convention, BP news stories -- like most stories reported by conservative outlets -- can best be summed up as "Freak out! Do it now!" I guess some religions focus on spiritual enlightenment and personal growth, while others focus on keeping you in a perpetual panic. Being constantly terrified of things that aren't really there doesn't seem like a very good way to spend your life, but that's just me.

And, of course, one of the things the right's been telling people to be constantly terrified of is the US census. A constitutionally required headcount, the census has been portrayed as some evil plot to round people up and put them into prison camps. Remember, if you're a conservative, it's your job to panic at the drop of a hat. It's what being a real American is all about. Courage is for communists, patriots panic.

Now BP has come up with a new reason to fear the census -- it's going to help the gays take over.

The Census Bureau is actively encouraging homosexual couples to declare themselves as "married" on census forms even if they do not have a marriage license, and critics say the move not only violates federal law but also encourages lying and will result in an inflated number.

It has been known for months that the Census Bureau was going to, for the first time, count same-sex couples in the 2010 Census, but only in recent days has the Census Bureau begun encouraging such participation through TV commercials airing on the homosexual-themed Logo channel, as well as through social media videos.

Only five states and the District of Columbia recognize "gay marriage." Yet homosexual couples in the other 45 states -- even those states that have passed constitutional amendments explicitly defining marriage in the traditional sense -- are encouraged by the Census Bureau to identify as being "married" on the census if that's how they view their relationship.

"Census data are based on how individuals self identify and how couples think of themselves," BP quotes a census factsheet [PDF]. "Same-sex couples who are married, or consider themselves to be spouses, can identify one other adult as a 'husband or wife.'"

Of course, this is taking everything out of context and no one's saying anything about not having a license. We know that several states and the District of Columbia now recognize and allow same sex marriage. And a lot of people who got married now live in a state that doesn't recognize that marriage. The lack of recognition by your state government does not negate the fact that you went someplace and were legally married. You consider that other person your spouse, since you went out of the way to have them declared your spouse.

Here's one of those "social media videos":

It's actually pretty clear. And so is the factsheet. "Census data are based on how individuals self identify," it goes on. "This includes same-sex couples who live somewhere their relationship is not recognized." But of course, the truth doesn't serve their conservative purposes, so the truth is out the window. I guess "a Christian Perspective" is synonymous for "crap that ain't true." You learn something new every day.

Part of the problem here is that the Defense of Marriage Act -- or DOMA -- bars the federal government from recognizing same sex marriage. But the interpretation that applies this to the census is taking the letter of the law to an absurd extreme. How does it help anyone not to know how many same sex marriages there are in the United States? What possible purpose would that ignorance serve?

For their part, the religious right has no answer to that; either because this is a non-issue they can use to freak homophobic ultra-conservative Baptists out over, because they'd rather be able to pretend that the LGBT community doesn't exist, or a combination of the two. In any case, they've got their outrage on.

"What kind of government actively lobbies citizens to lie on their forms?" BP reports Family Research Council President Tony Perkins as asking. "... Homosexuals should fill out the census form and be counted, the same as any other Americans. But only Congress -- not homosexual activists, not the Census Bureau, and not President Obama and his appointees acting unilaterally -- can change federal law."

Do what now? "Lie on their forms?" These people applied for a marriage license, went somewhere to get married, probably even had a wedding reception. I don't think it'd be unreasonable for them to tell people they're married. It's certainly not a lie.

The religious right's portrayal of it, however, is.


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Baptist Press story actually made the point that you are making. It said, "The Census Bureau has defended its approach to same-sex couples, saying it does not ask heterosexual couples to show their marriage licenses, either."