The U.S. Won't Tally LGBT People In 2020 Census

"We've been ERASED!"
Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

The next census won’t include questions related to sexual orientation or gender identity, the Census Bureau announced Tuesday, a move that’s drawn sharp rebuke from LGBT rights organizations.

A draft of subjects planned for the 2020 census, the next year the decennial survey will be conducted, initially had a proposal to include sexual orientation and gender identity for the first time. However, that inclusion was not listed in the finalized report delivered to Congress this week.

As The Washington Blade first noted, no U.S. census or American Community Survey ― a yearly effort that tracks population demographics ― has ever included questions about sexual orientation or gender identity. Same-sex unmarried partners were first tallied by the census in 1990, but there has never been a question to identify LGBT individuals.

The Census Bureau said the report including the proposed addition was released “inadvertently” and had been corrected before it was sent on to Congress, according to a statement obtained by the Blade.

Nevertheless, the decision to remove the proposal drew fierce opposition from civil rights groups that have long sought inclusion of such data in the census.

Meghan Maury, criminal and economic justice project director at the National LGBTQ Task Force, said the move was “yet another step to deny LGBTQ people freedom, justice and equity.”

“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,” Maury said in a statement. “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?”

Others said the exclusion amounted to an attempt “to erase LGBT people.”

“Social science researchers, health professionals, educators, and so many others striving to meet the needs of our communities for years have been decrying the lack of population-based data about who and where we are, the elevated rates of poverty we endure, and other serious challenges,” Jennifer C. Pizer, law and policy director at Lambda Legal, said in a statement.

“This is an assault on science as well as on a uniquely vulnerable group of Americans,” Pizer said. “It only strengthens our determination to be visible and counted in our communities, in town halls, in the streets, and in courtrooms nationwide. We number in the millions and we aren’t going back.”

The Census Bureau is legally required to submit its planned subjects for the survey three years before it’s conducted, and actual questions will be given to Congress by March 31, 2018.

“Our goal is a complete and accurate census,” bureau Director John H. Thompson said in a statement Tuesday.

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