The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) plans to release data on same-sex couples who tick the -˜married’ box on the 2011 national census.

Previously same-sex couples who tried to declare a legal marriage conducted overseas in countries like Canada or the Netherlands were counted as de facto.

Head of the ABS Population Census Branch Paul Lowe emailed lobby group Australian Marriage Equality (AME) last week, confirming that same-sex partnerships would be counted separately as marriages and de facto relationships.

-œThe count of people in same-sex relationships who tick the -˜husband or wife of person 1′ box at question 5 will be made available as a part of the standard output from the 2011 Census, he said.

ABS Census Products and Service director Jenny Telford said the ABS was not entering the same-sex marriage debate.

-œWhat we’re releasing is people who fill out their census form and tick that they’re a husband and wife relationship in a same-sex couple -” we’re just releasing the results as people put it on the census form, she told Southern Star.

-œSince 1996 we’ve produced data of people in households that identify themselves as same-sex and in a relationship. We’ve made that available for a while, but the key difference this time is the fact that we’re releasing the output as stated on the census form when people tick the husband and wife category.

AME national convenor Peter Furness welcomed the decision, saying it gave married same-sex couples the ability to stand up and be counted, despite the ban on same-sex marriage in Australia.

-œThe Rudd Government may choose to bury its head in the sand and pretend same-sex marriages don’t exist, but clearly the ABS will not, he said.

Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Stephen Jones welcomed the inclusion after years of same-sex couples missing the count.

-œIt’s definitely a very welcome move that government and especially the ABS have firm data about the existence of our families and recognition of our relationships.

-œIt does [matter], it would validate government resources and also the attention our community rightly deserves.

Following the release of the 2006 census data, an ABS spokeswoman explained same-sex couples who declared themselves married were counted as de facto because of the Marriage Act definitions. -œIt would be unrealistic to expect the ABS’s standards and classifications to provide a view contrary to federal legislation, she said at the time.

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