March 29 2017
With a new sheriff in town—the Trump administration—the U.S. Census Bureau has backed away from plans to collect data about Americans’ sexual orientation and gender identity.
March 31 marks the bureau’s deadline to submit any proposed new census questions to Congress for approval. An earlier draft of that proposal included questions aimed at quantifying LGBT Americans. But those same questions went missing from the draft submitted to Congress Tuesday.
Under the Obama administration, Democrats pushed to begin collecting data about sexual orientation and gender identity—an effort with overtly political implications.
A September 2016 Census Bureau slideshow went into more detail about the new data collection under consideration for the 2020 census. It defined sexual orientation to include “sexual identity, sexual attraction and sexual behavior,” while gender identity encompassed “transgender identity, gender expression (i.e., masculinity vs. femininity), and the concordance between sex assigned at birth and current sex.”
A conference call that same month with Megan Maury, an LGBTQ activist, who also serves on the Census’s National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations.
In that discussion, Maury described how existing Census data on same-sex couples helped “improve our advocacy” and “show that LGBTQ folks are living in every congressional district in the country.”
She added that information about sexual orientation and gender identity would be “important for decision makers to be responsive to the needs of our community” and would also “help us to design the right policy interventions for our community.”
On Tuesday, the LGBTQ Task Force, where Maury is the criminal and economic justice project director, decried the last-minute census change, saying, “We’ve been ERASED!”
“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. … 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?” Maury said in a statement.
By deadline, the Census Bureau did not respond to Heat Street’s request for comment.
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.