The Washington Times is reporting on a decision by the Census Bureau to cancel plans to ask Americans about their sexual orientation and identity in the next census, which will take place in 2020.
The law requires the Census Bureau to inform Congress three years before the next survey about the topics they plan to cover. An initial draft, which was published online Tuesday morning, revealed that the agency wanted to ask respondents about their sexual identity and orientation, along with 51 other categories of questions.
However, just hours later, they suddenly sent out a new draft with those topics conspicuously missing.
“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. This topic is not being proposed to Congress for the 2020 Census or American Community Survey,” the bureau said in a statement.
Apparently, gay rights advocates and Democratic lawmakers were pressing for the questions, saying that it was time the country got an official count of Americans in these categories. They claim the information will help Congress craft better laws that will improve the living situations of lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual people.
The gay activist group, Human Rights Campaign, has subsequently filed a Freedom of Information Act with the Commerce Department in search of any evidence of communication between the department and the Trump administration over the removal of those categories.
Regardless of their finding, the 2020 census will return to its original format of asking questions about age, race, occupation, marital status, and other areas of inquiry that they have been using for years.
“Our goal is a complete and accurate census,” Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson said in a report to Congress on the topics expected. “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.”
While the census currently collects some information about same-sex households, it has thus far refrained from asking more explicit questions about a person’s sexual identity. This is why estimates of the size of the LGBT community have been largely left to opinion polls.
Surveying for gender identity could be a lot more complicated. As the Times notes, when Facebook allowed users to select a gender identity it offered dozens of options, ranging from male and female to pangender and “neither.”
The US isn’t the only country considering this addition to their census. The UK is also considering it for their 2021 census, but is also acknowledging the considerable “challenges and difficulties” this will involve. For now, they are conducting focus groups and a national opinion survey to test whether the British public is open to such questions, and how to go about asking them.
According to the Daily Caller, gay activists were upset by the Census Bureau’s revised decision, calling it a way to “erase LGBTQ people.”
“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?” Meghan Maury with the National LGBTQ Task Force said.
Jennifer C. Pizer, the law and policy director at LGBT legal organization Lambda Legal, called the move an affront to science.
“This is an assault on science as well as on a uniquely vulnerable group of Americans,” said Jennifer C. Pizer, law and policy director at the LGBT legal organization Lambda Legal. “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.”
According to the Hill, 2020 will be the first year that citizens will be permitted to respond online to the census survey rather than fill out the paper surveys which are typically mailed to every household.
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