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Removal of Census Question leaves LGBTQ Community Feeling "Erased"

LGBTQ Americans are asking for more information on a snafu with the U.S. Census Bureau. (D. Paulsen)
LGBTQ Americans are asking for more information on a snafu with the U.S. Census Bureau. (D. Paulsen)
April 5, 2017

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Some members of the LGBTQ community say they're feeling "erased" after learning that proposed questions about 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 have helped survey LGBTQ Americans. The category also is excluded from the American Community Survey, an ongoing survey from the Census Bureau, said Meghan Maury, a criminal- and economic-justice project director for the National LGBTQ Task Force.

"Choices like this decision to not include sexual-orientation and gender-identity questions on the American Community Survey or the Census, it just contributes to that stigma," she said. "It makes us feel invisible."

No past census has surveyed members of the LGBTQ community. A question on "relationship to householder" does give the Census the ability to track same-sex marriages, although Maury said this only provides information about a small sliver of the community.

Maury said inclusion in the survey is an important blueprint for government agencies when distributing resources to specific communities. She cited one example of many as implementation of the Fair Housing Act and its nondiscrimination provision by 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," she said, "in order to have a better understanding of whether or not they should shift resources from one place to another."

Maury said this isn't 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, she said.

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 it.

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

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MD