In March of this year, the U.S. Census Bureau concluded that there was no need to ask about sexual orientation or gender identity on the 2020 decennial census or the American Community Survey. Prior to this announcement, more than 75 members of Congress wrote to the Census Bureau to request the addition of this information. In addition, during the Obama administration, at least four federal agencies, including the Justice Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Environmental Protection Agency requested that this information be collected. But under the Trump administration, the Justice Department did not reaffirm its request for the data, and instead questioned its “appropriateness.”
Now Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin, former Victory Institute trainee and the first openly lesbian U.S. senator, and Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, have reintroduced a 2016 bill called the LGBT Data Inclusion Act which would require that this survey, and other federal surveys like it, collect the data on sexual orientation and gender identity that has been repeatedly requested in the past. They are leading the fight for LGBTQ inclusion in an effort to hold the government accountable to the needs of all Americans. The bill has garnered the support of 14 Democratic co-sponsors in the Senate and 81 in the House.
Not only do the Census and the American Community Survey serve to create an accurate representation of the American population, it helps distribute $400 billion in federal funds annually. Measuring data on the LGBTQ population is necessary to make sure that their needs are met. As the 2016 letter from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) stated, “the availability of nationally representative and quality data will be essential to improve the unique health and social challenges of federally insured LGBT populations.” The data would also help the Department of Housing and Urban Development, for example, enforce the “Equal Access to Housing” rule.
Representation matters, and Senator Tammy Baldwin and Representative Raul Grijalva, members of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, are standing up for the LGBTQ community and working to ensure that the federal agencies that exist to serve all Americans have the data they need to provide comprehensive and robust services to all LGBTQ Americans.