May 23, 2017 at 4:17 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Harris, Carper seek answers on LGBT omission from 2020 Census

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) seek answers on the omission of LGBT questions from the U.S.
Census. (Photos public domain)

A pair of Democrats — U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) — are seeking answers from the U.S. Census Bureau on the omission of questions from major 2020 federal surveys on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In a letter dated May 22, the senators call on outgoing U.S. Census Bureau director John Thompson to explain the decision to exclude questions from a report outlining to Congress the templates for the 2020 U.S. Census and American Community Survey.

“As you have stated in the past, complete Census data is critical ‘to meet a wide range of federal needs—from providing apportionment and redistricting data as part of our representative democracy, to helping distribute more than $400 billion in federal funds annually,’” the senators write. “This is why it is critical that the Census Bureau’s process to include subjects to fairly and accurately count all Americans is impartial and free from undue interference.”

In March, the Census Bureau at first included in a report detailing 2020 Census plans an appendix note that questions allowing responders to identify their sexual orientation and gender identity were being considered. However, the agency immediately retracted that report and removed the note in a subsequent version of report, which seemed to indicate a final decision on LGBT questions wouldn’t be included in the federal surveys. LGBT groups responded that the Trump administration had “erased” LGBT people.

At the time, Thompson said in a blog post the omission was the result of “no federal data need” to include the questions, citing “a clear statutory or regulatory need for data collection.”

Detailing the multi-year process by which decisions on questions were made, Thompson wrote the initial plan for the surveys was set forth in an initial 2015 report. Although he acknowledged in 2016 members of Congress sought to include LGBT questions, it wasn’t clear whether the decision to omit them came during the Obama or Trump administrations.

According to Harris and Carper, the Obama administration “had considered adding SOGI as a subject to the 2020 Census and ACS” as result of U.S. agencies making the request, but the federal government changed course when President Trump came into office.

“On March 7, 2017…DOJ sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Commerce rescinding its request to include SOGI,” the senators write. “Specifically, DOJ stated that ‘it was unable to reaffirm its request of November 4, 2016.’ As a result, the Census Bureau halted its evaluation of whether SOGI should be included in the 2020 Census and ACS, despite DOJ’s previously clearly articulated need in November. These communications raise concerns about the role of the DOJ and its influence on government data collection.”

The letter seeks — by a June 19 deadline — information on 1) All communications related to the addition of SOGI as a new subject to the 2020 Census and the American Community Survey; 2) An explanation of the Census Bureau’s process to accept and review requests from federal agencies for survey questions; 3) An explanation of the Census Bureau’s process to accept and review requests from Congress; and 4) An explanation of the Census Bureau’s threshold for subject inclusion in the surveys.

The Washington Blade has placed a request seeking comment with the U.S. Census Bureau on the senators’ letter.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • You stupid fools. It’s none of the governments business. Either you want the republicans to round you up or not. Which is it?

  • Ummmmmmmmm, they weren’t “omitted,” senator. Congress was sent a revised draft, and the questions haven’t been on previous censuses either. Don’t you guys have a job to do or something? You know, like actually running our country instead of ginning up false narratives?

  • They weren’t there on the 2010 census.
    They weren’t there on the 2000 census.
    They weren’t there on the 1990 census.
    They weren’t there on the 1980 census.
    They weren’t there on the 1970 census.

    I think I see a pattern here. Maybe somebody can explain it to you “fake news” types.

  • Still another of a thousand reasons to separate from the tyrannical, terrorist, depraved “US.”

  • Um, exactly how is Trump “erasing” people when the current director of the Census Bureau, John Thompson, was put in place by President Obama in 2013?

    That is an overly hysterical summation to make over an entry item that has never been on a census before.

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