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EHRC to ask MPs to include gay census question

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  1. So long as it’s optional. I don’t see the need for this kind of interference.

  2. The Halcyon 16 Nov 2009, 11:52am

    The question isn’t going into the census – there have been polite refusals, categoric refusals, utter refusals and obscene refusals from the ONS. And they keep wanting to put “straight” on official forms which do ask about sexual orientation.

  3. What is the problem if the question is asked? Although the results must be taken with a pinch of salt as some people may not want to declare it, it can be useful to start having proper statistics about how many people define themselves as LGBT. At the moment there is a theoretical assumption that gay people are about 7% of the population. Some say 10%, others say 3%… It would be good to start having some proper figures, even if it’s just the number of British residents who are confident enough to declare they are LGBT.

  4. problem is that the head of the household fills it in. So, lets say Dad fills it in on behalf of his family….is he going to know that his son is gay and his wife is bicurious? the data will be meaningless; its only importance will be to at least give parity to the equality strands i.e. if we ask about race, religion, gender, disability etc we should also ask about orientation.

    Its the same problem with religion – head of household answers for the whole family; so if you have a christian head of household its likely he or she will declare that all 5 members of the family are christian, even if the kids are too young to determine that for themselves etc etc.

    I think we should leave sexual orientation AND religon off the census forms for that reason. religion was a new question at the last census, take it back off and leave sexual orientation off too, the data is too unreliable.

    BUT if they do go ahead with collecting unreliable data on religion then there’s no reason not to do so with sexual orientation.

    One worry is that lots of govt depts use census data to distribute resources, and when the data says that 0.0035% of population is LGBT (due to the flawed collection methodology) that will damage our pushes for access to resources and support and massivey increas the arguments for the religious right just as the Tories take power again.

    Not a good combination!

  5. Mihai Bucur 16 Nov 2009, 12:46pm

    Hmm, I don’t see why some LGBT groups are so keen on having this question in the census. Although it would raise the visibility of LGBT people, and be a reasonably useful piece of statistical information, it will probably severely underestimate the number of LGBT people, particularly if it is optional. This will provide ammunition to anti-equality groups, who will say “look, LGBT people only make up 1% of the population – the authoritative census says so”.

  6. It will be of no use to anyone, because it will not be accurate. I shall say, “none of your damned business.” My family agrees they will do the same.

  7. Tim Hopkins 16 Nov 2009, 3:44pm

    This article is slightly incorrect. The ONS do not think that a sexual orientation question is unnecessary. In fact they concluded that such a question would be about the most useful additional question that could be added to the Census.

    But they believe that there would be problems with some people objecting, and also with the “accuracy” of the results because the census forms are usually filled in by one member of the household on behalf of the others.

    The Equality Network consulted our network of LGBT people in Scotland on this in 2006 – 88% said they thought a question should be included and said they would answer it correctly.

    The ONS in England and Wales, and the Scottish Govt, are currently opposed to including a sexual orientation question in the census. But they are already committed to including a question in Government surveys such as the Household Survey. (In England and Wales it will be called a “sexual identity” question)

    It is a pity that the census is in 2011, and is only every 10 years. If it was in 2013, say, I think by then the UK and Scottish Govt’s could be convinced of the need for and value of a question.

  8. Shaunagus: “problem is that the head of the household fills it in”.

    We may not find out about children who are gay but we would about adults who fill in the forms themselves and choose to be open about it. I think adding the question goes a long way towards making sexual orientation something that is not “private and behind closed doors” but something that’s out in the open.

  9. Daniel Wilkes 16 Nov 2009, 5:01pm

    Ann Widdecombe’s reaction to this speaks volumes. She is notoriously homophobic, and suddenly wants to speak up for our privacy- when the question wouldn’t even be compulsory? Yeah right… she’s just worried how many people will answer something other than heterosexual. Only 9% of the UK say they’re Catholic, people always guess about 10% of the population is non-straight, what if there’s more of us than there are of them… *gasp*.

    I think, despite the fact that it won’t generate a completely accurate statistic as to the breakdown of sexuality in the UK, it’s important to include a question like this as it will enable the government to say “Look, our LGBT equality legislation is there to protect at least x number of people.” It will also make a new government think twice about taking our rights away- “If we try to erode LGBT rights we’ll be alienating at least this many people.”

  10. Jean-Paul Bentham 16 Nov 2009, 7:01pm

    My same-sex partner and I were DELIGHTED when we saw the question for the first time on our census form here in Canada over 10 years ago, and now we would fight to have the question kept on the census questionnaire.

    We were and are proud to answer YES to being gay.

  11. When Ann Widdecombe says ‘It’s intrusive’ you have to ask why she’s suddenly so concerned about us poor gay people having our lives intruded upon – what she really means is, she doesn’t want to know how many LGB people there are, because if the numbers are large then homophobes won’t be able to get away with refusing us equal rights or access to services, refusing to recognise us as taxpayers etc. But we do have to be very careful what we wish for. It’s very frustrating that there are no accurate figures or even estimates as to what proportion of the population is LGB – it ranges from 3%, 6% etc etc. But what if, for the reasons suggested by others above, the numbers come in much lower than expected, because people can’t or don’t want to answer the question or answer it truthfully? Wouldn’t that lead to a further marginalisation of our interests?

  12. Tim Roll-Pickering 16 Nov 2009, 11:51pm

    It’s not just heads of families who will be filling in the census. My borough took part in a test run and the form we were set was for the entire flat despite the fact the landlord sublets individual rooms and so many flats contain people who don’t have much direct contact (my own flat has had a succession of other tenants, often with completely different work schedules and with separate circles of friends, so I’ve not known many well). There are many such cases where again people are going to be reluctant to answer that question. And it’s not just homophobia – what if someone doesn’t want to admit to their other half that they’re bisexual.

    One potential side-effect could be the growth of “census swap” websites similar to vote swap ones whereby friendly straight people living alone agree to put L, G or B in exchange for those who want to maintain household closetness putting straight. That’s reasonably fine for a national statistic but for determining the allocating of funding and resources (the real purpose of the census) it’s going to cause havoc.

  13. I think the statistics would show the gay population as way below what it really is. I think a lot of gay people would be wary of providing this information, and if the figures showed we are a tiny minority, it would do more harm than good.

  14. Tim Hopkins 17 Nov 2009, 10:14am

    John-Paul, if you read this and have time, please could you email me, as I’d like to ask you about your experience of the census in Canada. One of the difficulties the Equality Network has had in trying to persuade the Scottish Govt to include a sexual orientation question in the 2011 census here is that we thought that no other country did.

    It would be really helpful to know that part of Canada at least has done this.



  15. Tim Hopkins 17 Nov 2009, 10:17am

    OK for some reason Pink News’s system didn’t like me putting in a mailto: link. My email address is tim at equality hyphen network dot org

  16. Only 9% of the UK say they’re Catholic, people always guess about 10% of the population is non-straight.

    Actually that would almost be worth the trouble. It would be a useful statistic to have. I’d love to do those venn diagrams from year one algebra and see how many people are both.

  17. Jean-Paul Bentham 17 Nov 2009, 5:01pm

    Tim Hopkins (14):


    I did send you an e-mail, but I’m not sure if it got through. If not, you can reach me at

  18. Jean-Paul Bentham 17 Nov 2009, 5:14pm


    Haha! I’m having the same problem; it’s probably a good idea for Pink to censor e-mail addresses….I do receive lotsa Spam!

    Try me at jpdugast at yahoo dot ca

    Love PinkNews. This is fun, and a challenge too!

  19. There’s a petition calling for this on the Number 10 website:

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