Dashing the hopes of pro-LGBT individuals and organizations, the Trump administration, on March 28, canceled plans to ask U.S. residents about their sexual orientation and gender identity in the 2020 Census.
Initially, sexual orientation and gender identity were among the proposed subjects for 2020; however, hours later the Census released an updated list striking the sexual orientation proposal.
"The Subjects Planned for the 2020 Census and American Community Survey report released today inadvertently listed sexual orientation and gender identity as a proposed topic in the appendix. This topic is not being proposed to Congress for the 2020 Census or American Community Survey," the bureau said in a statement.
Meghan Maury, Criminal and Economic Justice Project Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, said in a statement, "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. 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?"
Full press release from a National LGBTQ Task Force, March 28, 2017:
WASHINGTON, DC, March 28, 2017Today, the Trump Administration submitted to Congress a report of the list of categories of data it plans to collect for the 2020 Census and the American Community Survey ( ACS ). In this morning's version of the Administration's report, while it conspicuously excluded lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ( LGBTQ ) people on the list of "planned subjects" for the nation's decennial census and longer form survey, "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" were included as "proposed" subjects in the appendixindicating that data collection on these categories may have been in the works in an earlier version. Last year, a number of federal agencies urged the Census Bureau to collect sexual orientation and gender identity data, explaining that the information was critical to their ability to implement and enforce the law.
"Today, the Trump Administration has taken yet another step to deny LGBTQ people freedom, justice, and equity, by choosing to exclude us from the 2020 Census and American Community Survey. LGBTQ people are not counted on the Censusno data is collected on sexual orientation or gender identity. 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. 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?" said Meghan Maury, Criminal and Economic Justice Project Director, National LGBTQ Task Force.
This decision is part of a string of actions by the Trump Administration to remove sexual orientation and gender identity questions from federal surveys and to stall assessment of programs targeting the LGBTQ community. The Census does collect data on same-sex couples through its "relationship to householder" question; this results in a very narrow depiction of the needs and experiences of our community.
"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," said Maury.
For over a decade, the National LGBTQ Task Force has been at the forefront of national data collection advocacy efforts by urging the President, Congress, and the Census Bureau to collect data that accurately reflects the country's population of LGBTQ people. In 2010, the National LGBTQ Task Force launched the "Queer the Census" campaign calling on LGBTQ people to urge the Census Bureau to count them in the 2010 Census. More than 100,000 LGBTQ people placed a "Queer the Census" sticker on their 2010 Census envelops, asking the federal agency to count them and collect data on LGBTQ people. Since 2014, Maury has served on the National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations, where she provides advice to the Census Bureau on this and various other data collection issues.
From the Williams Institute, Federal Government Rolls Back Important Data Collection on LGBT Populations:
Los AngelesOn March 28, 2017, the Trump Administration removed "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" as proposed subjects for possible inclusion on the Decennial Census and/or American Community Survey in the future. "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," said Adam Romero, Federal Policy Director at the Williams Institute. "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."
In a March 2017 report to Congress on "Subjects Planned for the 2020 Decennial Census and the American Community Survey," the U.S. Census Bureau indicated that both sexual orientation and gender identity were "proposed" subject matter. On March 28, 2017, the U.S. Census Bureau released an updated report in which the only change appears to have been the exclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity as proposed subject matter.
Additionally, the Administration for Community Living 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, as well as sexual orientation and gender identity information from the Annual Program Performance Report for Centers for Independent Living, which serve people with disabilities.
For many years, the Williams Instituteamong other organizations and individualshas urged the federal government to expand and improve its data collection on LGBT populations. The Williams Institute has also produced widely-cited best practices for collecting sexual orientation and gender identity information on population-based surveys. Afederal interagency working group convened during the Obama Administration explained the need for such data: "[T]here remains a lack of data on the characteristics and well-being of these groups. In order to understand the diverse needs of SGM [sexual and gender minorities] populations, more representative and better quality data need to be collected."
Under the Obama Administration, several federal surveys successfully added sexual orientation and/or gender identity measures. "Economists, sociologists, demographers, and health scholars are learning about LGBT people's economic challenges, family situations, and health disparities by analyzing existing federal data. This research raises issues that are relevant to many areas of federal policy. It's essential that we include more questions on sexual orientation and gender identity on surveysnot fewer," said Lee Badgett, Williams Institute Distinguished Scholar and Professor of Economics at University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
"The federal government relies upon many surveys and systems that collect de-identified demographic data in order to monitor, preserve, and promote the health and well-being of the U.S. population; currently, about a dozen health and criminal justice surveys collect sexual orientation identity information and about half as many collect information about transgender people," said Kerith Conron, Research Director at the Williams Institute. "We have a long way to go before we are adequately assessing and responding to the needs of LGBT people, particularly given higher observed rates of poor health and poverty among this group."
The Williams Institute, a think tank on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, is dedicated to conducting rigorous, independent research with real-world relevance.