By Chris Johnson with the Washington Blade
The inclusion of LGBT categories in the Planned Subjects for the 2020 Census Report unveiled on Tuesday must have been music to the ears of LGBT advocates seeking to include sexual orientation and gender identity in federal surveys. But any such celebration would have been short-lived: The U.S. Census on the same day announced those categories were included in error.
With days before its deadline, the U.S. Census delivered to Congress its report on planned subjects for the survey, including gender, age, race, ethnicity, relationship and homeownership status. Under law, the report is due three years before Census Day, with the next one is set to occur April 1, 2020.
“Our goal is a complete and accurate census,” Census Bureau Director John Thompson said in a statement. “In planning for the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau has focused on improving its address list by using imagery, finding ways to increase household self-response, leveraging resources inside and outside the government, and making it easier and more efficient for census takers to complete their work. Furthermore, for the first time ever, the decennial will offer an online response option with the ultimate goal of improving question design and data quality while addressing community concerns.”
The report outlines the importance of including these questions in either the decennial U.S. Census or the newer and more detailed annual American Community Survey, which was established in 1985 and seeks to ascertain socio-economic and housing statistics.
But apparently an initial version of this report went too far. The U.S. Census issued a notice shortly afterward indicating the report was corrected because the initial appendix “inadvertently” included LGBT categories.
“The Subjects Planned for the 2020 Census and American Community Survey report released today inadvertently listed sexual orientation and gender identity as a proposed topic in the appendix,” the statement says. “The report has been corrected.”
The National LGBTQ Task Force has downloaded and published an unredacted copy of the report and posted on its website an image of the initial report and the redacted one that followed.
Neither the U.S. Census, nor the American Community Survey, had ever included questions about sexual orientation or transgender status. (In fact, no federal survey even during the Obama years included questions on transgender status, although some included sexual-orientation questions).
With efforts to streamline the decennial U.S. Census, the addition of LGBT questions would have been unlikely. The inclusion of LGBT categories in the report may indicate those categories were initially planned for the more detailed annual American Community Survey, then taken away.
The Blade has placed a call in with the Census Bureau seeking comment on why the LGBT categories were included in the report in the first place and why those categories needed removal.
LGBT advocates had been pressing for the inclusion of questions about sexual orientation and gender identity in federal surveys and expressed discontent the Trump administration propose to include in the U.S. Census or American Community Survey, then immediately take that proposal away.
Meghan Maury, criminal and economic justice project director for the National LGBTQ Task Force, said in statement the cut is the latest step from the Trump administration “to deny LGBTQ people freedom, justice, and equity.”
“LGBTQ people are not counted on the Census — no data is collected on sexual orientation or gender identity,” Maury said. “Information from these surveys helps the government to enforce federal laws like the Violence Against Women Act and the Fair Housing Act and to determine how to allocate resources like housing supports and food stamps. If the government doesn’t know how many LGBTQ people live in a community, how can it do its job to ensure we’re getting fair and adequate access to the rights, protections and services we need?”
According to the Task Force, federal agencies have urged the Census Bureau to collect sexual orientation and gender identity data to aid with implementation of the law. Maury called on Congress “to conduct oversight hearings to reveal why the Administration made the last-minute decision not to collect data on LGBTQ people.”
The redaction of LGBT categories is similar to the proposal at the Department of Health & Human Survey to remove established questions seeking to identify LGBT elders in from the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants, or NSOAAP. The survey is intended to evaluate the effectiveness of programs funded by the Older Americans Act, such as services for home-delivered meals, homemaker services and the National Family Caregiver Support Program.
Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement the removal of proposed LGBT questions from the U.S. Census report demonstrates a systematic effort on behalf of the Trump administration to erase LGBT people.
“By erasing LGBTQ Americans from the 2020 U.S. Census, the Trump Administration is adding a disgusting entry to a long list of tactics they’ve adopted to legally deny services and legitimacy to hard-working LGBTQ Americans,” Ellis said. “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.”
Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association.