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Democrats Introduce Bill to Count LGBTQ People on U.S. Census

Nearly three dozen civil rights groups have come out in support of a Senate bill mandating the Census collect data on LGBTQ Americans by 2030.

Introduced by Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.), the Census Equality Act compels the U.S. Census Bureau to “research, identify, and begin implementing a plan” to include questions related to sexual orientation and gender identity “no later than one year after the date of the enactment of this Act.”

While LGBTQ people would still have to wait another decade to be counted in the decennial survey, the bill also requires that the annual American Community Survey (ACS) include such questions by 2020.

In a statement, Harris claimed “no one should go uncounted and no one should be invisible.”

“We must expand data collections efforts to ensure the LGBTQ community is not only seen, but fully accounted for in terms of government resources provided,” claimed the former California Attorney General, who is rumored to be planning a 2020 presidential run. “This information can also provide us with better tools to enforce civil rights protections for a community that is too often discriminated against.”

Carper, her colleague in the Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee, added that the legislation would “ensure the information collected by the Census accurately reflects who we are as a society and that everyone is counted fairly.”

“Today, despite the fact that roughly 10 million Americans identify as LGBTQ, the community is left unrepresented on the Census,” Carper said. “In order for our government and the businesses that drive our economy to work for the American people, they must have the most accurate and comprehensive data on those they serve.”

At least 17 Senate Democrats — including Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — and 33 advocacy organizations have come out in support of the legislation.

These groups include a roster of nearly single leading organization working on LGBTQ equality: American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Center for American Progress, Family Equality Council, Los Angeles LGBTQ Center, National Center for Lesbian Rights, People for the American Way, SAGE, and The Trevor Project.

Advocates say this legislation is necessary after the U.S. Census Bureau announced last year it would not be including LGBTQ questions on the 2020 survey — despite earlier reports they would be incorporated.

Although Census officials claimed categories like gender identity and sexual orientation were never under serious consideration, the news led many people to conclude that the Trump administration again erased queer and trans people. The announcement followed rollbacks in data collection on queer and trans elders in two federal surveys, as well as the erasure of LGBTQ people from federal websites.

Although the U.S. Census Bureau concluded there was “no need” to survey LGBTQ lives, advocates say this information is essential. Having data about marginalized populations means the government can better offer them assistance through programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid.

David Stacy, government affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign, claimed allotting federal resources is all the more difficult when these groups remain uncounted.

“It’s absolutely critical that we have the hard data needed to find solutions and address the unique challenges Americans face based on their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Stacy said in a statement. “The Census and American Community Survey are crucial tools to meet these needs.”

Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, added that the Census Equality Act “will put the Census Bureau back on the path it initiated two years ago.”

“We call on members of Congress to support a full, fair, and accurate Census by becoming co-sponsors of the Census Equality Act and opposing efforts to add an untested citizenship question to the Census,” Rea claimed in a statement.

While sexual orientation and gender identity will not be counted, the U.S. Census Bureau announced in March that the 2020 survey would tally same-sex couples.

There are an estimated 10 million LGBTQ Americans.

Image via Getty


Nico Lang

Nico Lang is a staff writer for INTO, covering news, politics, and global LGBTQ issues.