On Tuesday the Trump administration submitted a report to Congress that listed the data it plans to collect in the 2020 census. In its original iteration, the list contained questions about sexual orientation and gender identity. In a revised version that appeared online, those topics were omitted.
NPR reports that a Census Bureau spokesperson said in a written statement that the report “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.”
Questions about sexual orientation and gender identity have not been asked before on the census or the American Community Survey, but according to NPR, “the bureau has collected information on same-sex couples based on answers to questions about a respondent’s sex and relationship to other people in a household.”
NPR reports that LGBT groups were disappointed to see the topic removed from the list because reliable data on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is hard to come by, though policymakers need it to make informed decisions.
Meghan Maury, director of the Criminal and Economic Justice Project at the National LGBTQ Task Force, told NPR, “We feel like it’s a lost opportunity.”
In a longer statement on the Task Force website, Maury said:
Today, the Trump Administration has taken yet another step to deny LGBTQ people freedom, justice, and equity, by choosing to exclude us from the 2020 Census and American Community Survey. LGBTQ people are not counted on the Census—no data is collected on sexual orientation or gender identity. 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?
As noted by NPR, Census Bureau Director John Thompson published a blog post on Wednesday to explain why questions about sexual orientation and gender identity would not be included in upcoming surveys:
In April 2016, more than 75 members of Congress wrote to the Census Bureau to request the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity as a subject for the American Community Survey. We carefully considered this thoughtful request and again worked with federal agencies and the [Office of Management and Budget] Interagency Working Group on Measuring Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity to determine if there was a legislative mandate to collect this data. Our review concluded there was no federal data need to change the planned census and [American Community Survey] subjects.
Maury told NPR that not collecting the data gives the impression that LGBTQ Americans don’t matter.
“They’re read by many people in our community as saying affirmatively that we don’t count, that we don’t matter,” Maury said. “Decisions like this really contribute to that feeling that we’re invisible.”
Read more at NPR.