MORE GAYS STAND UP IN CENSUS by Harley Dennett
Gay and lesbian couples are increasingly making themselves known according to latest Census figures unveiled yesterday.
The 25 percent jump in same-sex couples from 2001 has reignited a debate about a specific question on sexuality in future surveys.
More than 24,00 same-sex couples identified their relationships in the 2006 Census, but even the Australian Bureau of Statistics admits the community is underreported.
An ABS spokesman said it was important to note that same-sex data from the Census had limitations, including a reluctance to identify and lack of knowledge that same-sex relationships would be counted.
“We also understand some people will worry about privacy, such as not feeling comfortable revealing that information in smaller towns where the Census collector would be known to the person,” the spokesman said.
Gay And Lesbian Equality spokesman Rod Swift said there would always be underreporting, but the figures were continuing to improve.
“It gets larger every time there’s a Census. We haven’t had a 25 percent increase in the population, same-sex couples are just more willing to identify themselves,” he said.
“It’s starting to show how many couples are being affected by discrimination in laws identified by the Human Rights Commission.” (Full story: page 3)
Swift called for the Australian Bureau of Statistics to consider a question on sexuality to identify gay and lesbian people who were not in relationships or not living with their partner.
“As more states allow civil unions, registration or de facto recognition, allowing same-sex couples to report that as part of the question on marriage would make things much easier,” he said.
NSW continued to report the largest number of same-sex couples, but also the smallest increase, up 15.1 percent to 9724 couples. Queensland had the highest increase, up 57 percent to 8285 couples.
“The changes between 2001 and 2006 look like more people are reporting in states outside NSW where law reforms have gone through,” Swift said.
“We’re looking for future results which show how many of these couples have children.”
The gay and lesbian health sector has called for the government to include more explicit questions on sexuality in official demographic research so the community’s needs would no longer be ignored.
“However there is a strange reluctance to do so. One reason we have been given previously is that the inclusion of a question like this would offend some people,” Acon President Adrian Lovney said.
“There are literally tonnes of research and data on health issues affecting the Australian community but this material tells us little about the health of gay and lesbian communities because none of this research includes a basic sexuality question.”
The 2001 Census reported a 91 percent increase in same-sex couples over 1996.