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Census Snafu: LGBTQ Community Feeling "Erased"

New England legal advocates says leaving sexual orientation and gender identity questions off the 2020 Census will be harmful to the LGBTQ community. (WHOI-WIKI)
New England legal advocates says leaving sexual orientation and gender identity questions off the 2020 Census will be harmful to the LGBTQ community. (WHOI-WIKI)
April 3, 2017

CONCORD, N.H. -- Some members of the LGBTQ community say they're feeling “erased” after learning that proposed questions on sexual orientation and gender identity were removed from a draft of the 2020 Census.

The U.S. Census Bureau said the original document was submitted in error, and corrected the document by excluding a category that would've helped survey LGBTQ Americans. The category also is excluded from the American Community Survey, an ongoing survey from the Census Bureau.

Ben Klein is an attorney with GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, or “GLAD", based in Boston.

"The LGBT population in New England, we know, experiences increased discrimination; there are higher rates of violence,” Klein said. "So, refusing to collect data and count us is really harmful to our community."

Klein said similar discrimination is pervasive across the country, so it makes sense to learn more about this segment of the population in order to make sound policy decisions.

No past Census has surveyed members of the LGBTQ community. A question on "relationship to householder" does give the Census the ability to track some same sex marriages.

Meghan Maury, criminal and economic justice project director with the National LGBTQ Task Force, said one example of how census data impacts policy is the implementation of the Fair Housing Act and its nondiscrimination provision by HUD, the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"It needs to know how often LGBTQ folks are likely to be trying to access HUD programs and services, in order to have a better understanding of whether or not they should shift resources from one place to another," she explained.

The National LGBTQ Task Force, along with the Human Rights Campaign and other organizations have submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Commerce, which includes the Census Bureau, to find out how the agency came to this decision.

Maury said she also wants Congress to look into the issue.

"We're hoping that our colleagues in the Congress will take us up on that request and hold an oversight hearing soon," she said.

Maury said this is not an isolated incident. The Department of Health and Human Services and HUD also have removed questions on sexual orientation and gender identity from some of their surveys.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NH