Column One:
Eye on Unmarried America

August 28,  2006  



New census numbers provide advocacy opportunities

By Thomas F. Coleman


Last week, Column One focused on new data from the Census Bureau showing that the majority of households in the United States are now headed by unmarried Americans. 

My commentary highlighted some of the issues which elected representatives and corporate executives will need to address in order to achieve more fairness for this new unmarried majority in their roles as workers, consumers, and taxpayers, in addition to people in power giving more attention to unmarried voters.

Besides analyzing the new census data as a national statistic, the numbers reveal that 23 states and more than 389 cities have unmarried majorities in terms of households and living arrangements.   They also show that 46 U.S. Senators represent states, and 155 U.S. Representatives represent districts, with unmarried majority households.

Equal rights activists with a little bit of creativity can transform the raw data into a multitude of opportunities for education and advocacy. 

Unmarried Americans can use these new statistics as a reason to contact elected officials who represent unmarried majority states, cities, or districts.  These officials may not be aware that the majority of households which they represent are headed by unmarried adults.  They may not have thought about equal rights for single people or may not know about the prevalence of marital status discrimination.

If you live in one of the 23 unmarried majority states, you could write to your Governor to emphasize this fact.  You could ask what the Governor's position is on marital status discrimination in employment, housing, and business practices -- and inquire about what his or her administration is doing to end the unfair treatment of unmarried residents of your state.  

If you live in one of the 389 cities with an unmarried majority, you could write to the city's mayor, citing the percent of unmarried households he or she presides over as chief executive of the city.  Does the city have a local civil rights law?  Does it include "marital status" as a prohibited form of discrimination?  Does the city have a Human Relations Commission, and if so, does that agency have jurisdiction to address the needs of unmarried and single people?

As for the 201 members of Congress with unmarried majority constituencies -- senators and representatives alike -- they also could be contacted by fax, mail, or telephone.  (E-mail messages to Congress members won't have much of an impact and probably won't generate anything more than a canned generic response.) 

You could let your senator or representative know about the new census numbers.  You could also ask whether he or she would support or sponsor legislation to add "marital status" to the jurisdiction of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, as well as the equal rights mandate of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

Such letters may have more impact if you also prime the political pump by sending a copy of your letter or letters to local media.  Write a letter to the editor of your newspaper about your concern for equal rights for the new unmarried majority and attach a copy of the letters you have sent to government officials.  Send a fax or make a call to a talk radio show in your area, suggesting that they devote airtime to the issue of equal rights for unmarried Americans.

These letters to officials and media might be timed to coincide with Unmarried and Single Americans Week (Sept. 17-23).  Mention the commemoration of "Singles Week" -- -- in your written correspondence or verbal communications.

If you belong to an organization which advocates for equal rights (such as the Alternatives to Marriage Project) or fights for civil liberties (such as the American Civil Liberties Union), ask them to take organizational action on one or more of the suggestions raised in this column.

The emergence of a new unmarried majority is an impressive statistical fact, but politicians are more impressed with personal contact from constituents.  So contact them.

The media is mildly interested in demographic trends, but radio producers and newspaper editors are more interested in hearing about specific stories of unfairness or concrete examples of discrimination.  So give them what they want.  Be specific.  Be emotional.  Be yourself.

You don't have to let the new census data collect dust on a library shelf.  Make the numbers come alive.  Use them as a tool for advocacy and education. 

(Let me know what responses you receive and I'll share this information in a future edition of Column One.)

Unmarried America 2006

Thomas F. Coleman, Executive Director of Unmarried America, is an attorney with 33 years of experience in singles' rights, family diversity, domestic partner benefits, and marital status discrimination.  Each week he adds a new commentary to Column One: Eye on Unmarried America. E-mail: Unmarried America is a nonprofit information service for unmarried employees, consumers, taxpayers, and voters.