Members of the LGBTQ community say they are feeling erased after proposed questions on sexual orientation and gender identity were removed from a draft of the 2020 Census this week.
The U.S. Census Bureau, which is required to submit a list of categories to be tracked on the Census three years before it is held, said the original document was submitted in error. The corrected document excluded 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.
“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,” said Meghan Maury, criminal and economic justice project director at the National LGBTQ Task Force. “It makes us feel invisible.”
No past Census has included questions that would identify members of the LGBTQ community specifically.
A question on “relationship to householder” does give the Census the ability to track some same-sex marriages, although Maury said this only gives information on a small sliver of the community.
What happens when the question isn’t asked
She said inclusion in the survey is an important blueprint for government agencies and is useful when they are distributing resources to specific communities. She said one example of many is the 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 in order to have a better understanding of whether or not they should shift resources from one place to another,” Maury said.
She said this is not an isolated incident. According to Maury, the Department of Health and Human Services and HUD recently removed questions on sexual orientation and gender identity from some of their surveys.
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 – where the Census Bureau is housed – to find out how the agency came to this decision. Maury 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.