The Trump administration nixed a proposal to include a question about sexual orientation and gender identity in the U.S. Census, essentially erasing the lives of an estimated 10 million people in the United States.
Questions about sexual orientation and gender identity have never appeared in the census or American Community Survey. But LGBTQ rights organizations told Rewire they began campaigning in 2009 to include LGBTQ people in the 2020 Census. The effort gained traction under the Obama administration, which had announced plans to collect LGBTQ data for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
When the Census Bureau on Tuesday released “Subjects Planned for the 2020 Census and American Community Survey,” the 77-page document included a “proposed” question about sexual orientation and gender identity. By 5 p.m. that day, the question was gone, advocates told Rewire.
A Census Bureau spokesperson told the Washington Times the questions were included “inadvertently.” The bureau said members of Congress had asked to include questions about gender identity and sexual orientation, but the agency determined there was no “federal need” for the information.
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Conducted every ten years, the census provides crucial data influencing government programs. An estimated 10 million adults in the United States identify as LGBT, according a 2017 Gallup poll. Omitting LGBTQ people means their lives are not counted in criminal justice and social safety net programs, among others.
“Information from these surveys helps the government to enforce federal laws like the Violence Against Women Act and the Fair Housing Act and to determine how to allocate resources like housing supports and food stamps,” Meghan Maury, criminal and economic justice project director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, said in a statement. “If the government doesn’t know how many LGBTQ people live in a community, how can it do its job to ensure we’re getting fair and adequate access to the rights, protections, and services we need?”
Removing questions about LGBTQ people from the census is the latest move by the Trump administration to marginalize that population, as Rewire has reported. The administration this month erased LGBTQ people from the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants and the Annual Program Performance Report for Centers for Independent Living, which are used to assess support services and care for older Americans.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development scrapped guidelines protecting LGBTQ people, including barring discrimination based on gender identity in emergency shelters. Last month, the administration rescinded Title IX protections for transgender students.
“By erasing LGBTQ Americans from the 2020 U.S. Census, the Trump Administration is adding a disgusting entry to a long list of tactics they’ve adopted to legally deny services and legitimacy to hard-working LGBTQ Americans,” Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, said in a emailed statement. “The Trump Administration is trying hard to erase the LGBTQ community from the fabric of America, but visibility has always been one of the LGBTQ community’s greatest strengths.”