Earlier this week, the U.S. government announced that questions about sexual orientation and gender identity will not be included on the 2020 U.S. Census or the American Community Survey.
As required by Title 13 of the U.S. Code, the Census Bureau submitted a summary of the census to Congress on March 28. Called “Subjects Planned for the 2020 Census and American Community Survey,” the 77-page document outlined what questions will be asked.
“Additional information beyond the population count has been collected with each census in response to the challenges facing the nation and a national desire to understand ourselves,” read the text, available on census.gov.
It described the regular content reviews, which are done “to ensure that all of the information collected through the decennial census program is required by federal programs.”
Sexual orientation and gender identity were not included as proposed questions.
Efforts to add such questions to the Census and the ACS have long been ongoing.
They came to a head last April as about 70 legislators, led by Rep. Paul Grijalva (D-Ariz), proposed H.R. 5373, the LGBT Data Inclusion Act. It was suggested “to improve Federal population surveys by requiring the collection of voluntary, self-disclosed information on sexual orientation and gender identity in certain surveys, and for other purposes.” The text of the bill, which can be found on congress.gov, suggested the voluntarily gathered data would be used to get a better idea of how many LGBT-identifying people live in the U.S. and how they could best be helped by legislators.
Attention to the efforts was drawn by transgender rights activist Laverne Cox, who emphasized the importance of collecting data as a way to better understand the needs of the LGBT community.
“LGBT people exist, we are a vital part of the fabric of this country and we just want to be counted,” Cox said, in a press conference held in tandem with House Democrats on June 9, 2016.
The bill was introduced and referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in May 2016.
The issue was taken on by several federal agencies, including the Office of Management and Budget, which attempted to find a better way to collect such data, according to Time. Many were hoping this would also be taken into account for the upcoming census.
Similarly, this past week questions of sexual orientation were removed from surveys sent out from the Department of Health and Human Services.
For some, this was cause for concern.
President and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Sarah Ellis, released a statement attacking the Trump administration for the alleged repeated blows to LGBT rights in the U.S.
“The Trump Administration is trying hard to erase the LGBTQ community from the fabric of America, but visibility has always been one of the LGBTQ community’s greatest strengths,” Ellis said.
Coordinator of Indiana University’s LGBTQ+ Culture Center, Doug Bauder, expressed similar concerns.
“It’s just a dismissal of a portion of the population,” Bauder said. “I think it’s a sign of ignorance.”
Advances toward equality for minorities and undermined populations are a way of saying they are there, he said. Whether programming or policies concerning the safety and security of minorities, such steps are vital.
“Interest and awareness are important,” he said. “[This] is a step backward. It’s another example of the dumbing of America.”
The Census Bureau has not released a statement addressing the outcry.