Activists have filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in a bid to get answers as to why the Trump administration has excluded LGBTQ identity from two major national surveys.
The move is in response to the US Census Bureau apparently dropping plans to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” data collection in its monthly American Community Survey. These topics will also not be included in the next national census in 2020, the bureau confirmed.
Activists say these are lost opportunities to better understand the realities and needs of LGBTQ people in the US. While the surveys have not asked about sexual orientation and gender identity before, it appears that the Census Bureau had planned to do so. Now it’s claimed that their proposed inclusion in a draft document about the surveys was “a typo”.
John Thompson, Director of the U.S. Census Bureau, confirmed that members of Congress had requested the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity categories in the surveys. He claimed, however, that the bureau concluded “there was no federal data need” to do so.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which filed the FOIA request, isn’t buying this explanation and wants to know why these topics were dropped; suggesting that the Trump administration was behind the change. It accused it of working “to erase LGBTQ people from federal surveys and disrupt programs that provide direct assistance to the LGBTQ community”.
There does appear to be a pattern unfolding. Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services removed a question about sexual orientation from another national survey of older Americans. Earlier this month, the Department of Housing and Urban Development also withdrew two notices impacting data collection and implementation guidelines for a homelessness prevention initiative targeting LGBTQ youth.
“The Trump Administration has launched a deliberate campaign to erase LGBTQ people from federal data used to inform budgets and policies across the government,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.
“Their intent is clear: by denying we exist, the Trump Administration hopes to deny us equality. It won’t work. Today, we’re resolved to be louder and fight even harder, because Donald Trump and [Vice President] Mike Pence #CantEraseUs.”
The American Community Survey is an ongoing monthly statistical survey that gathers information used by many public-sector, private-sector, and not-for-profit stakeholders to allocate funding, track shifting demographics, plan for emergencies, and learn about local communities.