The National LGBTQ Task Force has created a petition to ask for inclusion in the 2020 Census and the American Community Survey. Currently, the LGBTQ question has been removed. It has been previously proposed for inclusion. Photo Credit: National LGBTQ Task Force

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Trump Administration’s Department of Commerce’s U.S. Census Bureau has recently made the decision to remove data collection for consideration on LGBTQ individuals from the 2020 Census and the American Community Survey.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Rep. Adam Schiff and Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva have led 86 members of Congress in sending a bicameral letter to the bureau’s director John Thompson and the director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney expressing disapproval.

Thompson said that their review concluded that there was no federal data need to change the planned census and survey subjects.

According to Baldwin resources, the federal government, states and local communities use census data to determine how to allocate resources to meet the needs of certain populations. “Despite this critical mission, no comprehensive federal population survey currently asks respondents to share their sexual orientation and gender identity, meaning that even the most basic of statistics — the number of people who identify as LGBTQ — is undeterminable.”

Rep. Grijalva and Sen. Baldwin introduced the LGBT Data Inclusion Act in 2016 which would have required federal agencies to collect the data. Rep. Schiff created a letter to the federal directors with demands to include  LGBTQ individuals in the process.

The lawmakers are not the only ones who have expressed disapproval and disappointment over the situation.

The National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals Policy Committee commented on the issue and said, “Data is so powerful because it brings marginalized communities out from the shadows and makes it harder to claim anti-LGBT laws will impact an insignificant minority. Data collection allows for a more detailed and accurate analysis of the costs of discrimination. That’s something bigots want to keep under wraps because they know that data is a damning rebuke to their policies of hate and division. … Adding these questions should not be viewed as a partisan or political task. Doing so merely acknowledges the fact that LGBT people live in the United States and have unique experiences and struggles. The data would also help the federal government further fine-tune many of its major social policies and programs, which would in turn increase their efficiency and effectiveness.”

The Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law’s Federal Policy Director Adam Romero said, “Given another recent move to take such questions off a federal survey and administrative form, there appears to be a new policy or practice to exclude sexual orientation and gender identity measures from federal data collection efforts.” At press time, the institute planned to lead a discussion on April 7 on “LGBT Rights and the Trump Administration and Changing the Landscape on Gender Identity Data Collection.” He added, “Without federal data on LGBT populations, the ability of federal, state, and local governments to make evidence-based public policy that also reflects the experiences and needs of LGBT Americans is significantly undermined.”

The National LGBTQ Task Force Criminal and Economic Justice Project Director Meghan Maury stated, “We call on President Trump and his Administration to begin collecting sexual orientation and gender identity data on the American Community Survey as soon as possible and urge Congress to conduct oversight hearings to reveal why the Administration made the last-minute decision not to collect data on LGBTQ people.” The organization has an active petition asking for inclusion in the census.

The Williams Institute shared that in addition to the census and survey, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is proposing to remove a sexual orientation question from the 2017 version of the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants (NSOAAP) and sexual orientation, and gender identity fields from the Annual Program Performance Report for Centers for Independent Living. Dr. Kerith Conron, research director of the institute, said, “By removing these questions, ACL will blind itself to the experiences and needs of LGBT elders and people with disabilities.”

Services & Advocacy for LGBT Elders (SAGE) announced that it is launching a nationwide effort to oppose the Trump Administration’s proposed erasure of LGBT elders from the NSOAAP. Specifically, SAGE opposes changes that would eliminate questions that allow the federal government to assess the extent to which LGBT older adults are receiving federally funded elder services.

Laura E. Durso, vice president for the Center for American Progress’s LGBT Research and Communications Project, issued a statement saying, “Governments have a responsibility to ensure that social service programs meet the needs of communities they aim to protect, especially vulnerable communities such as LGBT older adults. Policymakers cannot fulfill that responsibility without robust, quality data, which makes this action by the Trump administration an appalling step backward. Data collection is about more than numbers on a page. Without data, we can’t know whether HHS is equitably serving LGBT people in need.”


Lainey Millen

Lainey Millen was formerly QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director from 2001-2019 when she retired.