LGBT rights advocates are speaking out in anger after the U.S. Census Bureau seemed to be reneging on a proposal to include questions about sexual orientation and gender identity in the upcoming decennial census in 2020. As the Associated Press reports, the Bureau issued a statement Wednesday after submitting to Congress a list of proposed subjects to ask Americans in the next census, saying that the subjects "sexual orientation and gender identity" were listed "inadvertently," and "This topic is not being proposed to Congress for the 2020 Census or American Community Survey. The report has been corrected."
Census data, often critical in public policy decisions and funding relating to housing and health care, is also used by marketers to better understand demographics by region. The American Community Survey (ACS), which uses a smaller sample but asks more in-depth questions about one's family, occupation, and living situation, have been used by demographers to infer populations of gay and lesbian people, but because there has never been a direct question about sexual orientation, all these numbers have been based on same-sex couples sharing households. The census has never provided a complete picture of gay and lesbian people across the country, particularly those who live alone or with family, and this can lead to arguments about how many LGBT people there actually are in the country.
As the Christian Science Monitor reports, LGBT groups like the LGBTQ National Task Force are outraged at what seems to have been a quick move by conservatives, and/or the Trump Administration, to keep LGBT people from being counted once again. "We've been erased!" declares this blog post showing the proposed subject and its removal from the draft document by the Census Bureau. Meanwhile the Human Rights Campaign announced they were submitting a Freedom of Information Act request to get to the bottom of this, and they're circulating the hashtag #CantEraseUs.
In his statement about the revision, John Thompson, director of the Census Bureau said that a department review "concluded there was no federal data need to change the planned census and ACS subjects."
75 members of Congress joined LGBT advocates last year in asking that the Census Bureau add the question about sexual orientation for the first. Retired demographer Dr. Gary Gates, who spent the last five years serving on the Census Scientific Advisory Committee, tells the Christian Science Monitor, "There’s no federal data source in which you can access how many LGBT people there are even at a state level. It’s critical that we have those kinds of data if we’re to serve this population that we know has been subject to great social stigma. Other populations have data resources to document and make the case of why it’s important to serve them."
Gates admits, though, that it may already be too late to get the questions included for 2020 as it takes years to test and hone the language of the questions that are used. He tells the CSM, "If advocates want a sexual orientation or gender identity measurement on the US census, they actually need to start now to try to convince to the Census Bureau to begin the process of testing measures for inclusion on the American Community Survey. Then that would set you up to make the argument to get the question on the 2030 census. But it has to happen now, it takes that long."