US Census Bureau officials have said that the 2010 census will count married gay couples, despite previous statements that they would not be recognised.

Steve Jost, a spokesman for the Census Bureau, said the organisation was already working on technical changes to ensure valid information was given.

He told AP: “They will be counted, and they ought to report the way they see themselves.

“In the normal process of reports coming out after the census of 2010, I think the country will have a good data set on which to discuss this phenomenon that is evolving in this country.”

The last US census was carried out in 2000, when gay couples could not marry in any state.

Since then, Vermont, Iowa, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine have legalised gay marriage although as yet, marriages have only taken place in Massachuesetts, Connecticut and Iowa.

Same-sex marriage was briefly allowed in California and the state’s Supreme Court ruled last month that couples who married during the brief window can stay married.

Previously, the federal Defence of Marriage Act, signed in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, barred the information from being collected. However, the White House announced on Friday that its interpretation of the act did not prohibit gathering the information.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said: “The president and the administration are committed to a fair and accurate count of all Americans.

“We’re in the midst of determining the best way to ensure that gay and lesbian couples are accurately counted.”

It is thought that counting gay couples will not require a change in the census questions. However, officials say they will need to find out a way to separate those in civil unions who call themselves husbands or wives from those who are actually married or create a new designation for both.

The next UK national census will be held on 27th March 2011. For the first time the marital status question will include a civil partnership option, but there will not be a question on sexual orientation.