More than five-dozen Democrats in Congress urged the Trump administration in a letter on Friday to figure out how many LGBT people live in the United States when conducting the next Census, a proposal that had been considered and then scrapped earlier this week.
Lawmakers cited what they saw as hypocrisy on the part of John Thompson, director of the Census Bureau, who has said he wants a “complete and accurate census.”
“If this is indeed the goal, then the availability of data on the size, location, and circumstances of the LGBT population should be taken into account,” said the letter led by Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin along with Reps. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona and Adam Schiff of California.
“Additionally, we are deeply troubled that in follow-up statements, Director Thompson claims that the rationale for excluding LGBT identities is that there is no federal need for such information," they add, noting, "We write to express our strong disapproval of the Census Bureau’s decision."
The letter, which also asks about the American Community Survey, was also sent to Mick Mulvaney, who leads the White House's Office of Management and Budget.
Congressional Democrats and several federal agencies during the Obama era —including the Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Justice Departments — asked that questions about sexual orientation and gender identity be included along with dozens of other questions. A preliminary draft of questions released this week for the 2020 Census included them; however, a final draft sent to Congress on Tuesday did not.
The Census Bureau issued a statement the next day saying there was an "error" in the early draft, and that to count populations, officials needed "a clear statutory or regulatory need for data collection."
Censuses over the past decades have not asked about sexual orientation and gender identity. The next one will inquire about the marital status of single-sex couples, per a 2013 decision under former-president Obama, but the lawmakers on Friday said that is not enough.
“The fact remains that we know little else about the social and economic circumstances of the LGBT population at large,” their letter notes, adding that LGBT people disproportionately experience discrimination in housing and employment.
“There is also compelling evidence that many, particularly transgender people, are at greater risk of being victimized by violence and experience significant health disparities and vulnerability to poverty,” the lawmakers continue. “Expanded data collection on LGBT people is needed to help policymakers and community stakeholders understand the full extent of these disparities, as well as identifying the needs of these communities so they can be better served.”
The members of Congress ask the administration to explain their decision, “including justification for stating there being no federal need for data on the LGBT population.”
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Dominic Holden is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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