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Trump’s U.S. Census proposes, immediately cuts LGBT survey questions

Agency says proposed LGBT categories ‘inadvertently’ included in report

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The U.S. Census proposed, then removed LGBT questions in the U.S. Census and American Community Survey. (Photo courtesy the National LGBTQ Task Force.)

The inclusion of LGBT categories in the Planned Subjects for the 2020 Census Report unveiled on Tuesday must have been music to the ears of LGBT advocates seeking to include sexual orientation and gender identity in federal surveys. But the celebration was short-lived: The U.S. Census on the same day announced those categories were included in error.

Just days before its deadline, the U.S. Census delivered to Congress its report on planned subjects for the survey, including gender, age, race, ethnicity, relationship and homeownership status. Under law, the report is due three years before Census Day, with the next one set to occur April 1, 2020.

“Our goal is a complete and accurate census,” Census Bureau Director John Thompson said in a statement. “In planning for the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau has focused on improving its address list by using imagery, finding ways to increase household self-response, leveraging resources inside and outside the government, and making it easier and more efficient for census takers to complete their work. Furthermore, for the first time ever, the decennial will offer an online response option with the ultimate goal of improving question design and data quality while addressing community concerns.”

The report outlines the importance of including these questions in either the decennial U.S. Census or the newer and more detailed annual American Community Survey, which was established in 1985 and seeks to ascertain socio-economic and housing statistics.

But apparently an initial version of this report went too far. The U.S. Census issued a notice shortly afterward indicating the report was corrected because the initial appendix “inadvertently” included LGBT categories.

“The Subjects Planned for the 2020 Census and American Community Survey report released today inadvertently listed sexual orientation and gender identity as a proposed topic in the appendix,” the statement says. “The report has been corrected.”

The National LGBTQ Task Force has downloaded and published an unredacted copy of the report and posted on its website an image of the initial report and the redacted one that followed.

Neither the U.S. Census, nor the American Community Survey, had ever included questions about sexual orientation or transgender status. However, during the Obama years, other federal surveys included questions seeking to identify responders who are LGBT.

With efforts to streamline the decennial U.S. Census, the addition of LGBT questions would have been unlikely. The inclusion of LGBT categories in the report may indicate those categories were initially planned for the more detailed annual American Community Survey, then taken away.

The Blade has placed a call to the Census Bureau seeking comment on why the LGBT categories were included in the report in the first place and why those categories were removed.

LGBT advocates had been pressing for the inclusion of questions about sexual orientation and gender identity in federal surveys and criticized  the Trump administration for proposing to include them in the U.S. Census or American Community Survey, then immediately took them away.

Meghan Maury, criminal and economic justice project director for the National LGBTQ Task Force, said in a statement the cut is the latest step from the Trump administration “to deny LGBTQ people freedom, justice, and equity.”

“LGBTQ people are not counted on the Census — no data is collected on sexual orientation or gender identity,” Maury said. “Information from these surveys helps the government to enforce federal laws like the Violence Against Women Act and the Fair Housing Act and to determine how to allocate resources like housing supports and food stamps. If the government doesn’t know how many LGBTQ people live in a community, how can it do its job to ensure we’re getting fair and adequate access to the rights, protections and services we need?”

According to the Task Force, federal agencies have urged the Census Bureau to collect sexual orientation and gender identity data to aid with implementation of the law. Maury called on Congress “to conduct oversight hearings to reveal why the Administration made the last-minute decision not to collect data on LGBTQ people.”

The redaction of LGBT categories is similar to the proposal at the Department of Health & Human Survey to remove established questions seeking to identify LGBT elders in from the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants, or NSOAAP. The survey is intended to evaluate the effectiveness of programs funded by the Older Americans Act, such as services for home-delivered meals, homemaker services and the National Family Caregiver Support Program.

Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement the removal of the proposed LGBT questions from the U.S. Census report demonstrates a systematic effort on behalf of the Trump administration to erase LGBT people.

“By erasing LGBTQ Americans from the 2020 U.S. Census, the Trump administration is adding a disgusting entry to a long list of tactics they’ve adopted to legally deny services and legitimacy to hard-working LGBTQ Americans,” Ellis said. “The Trump administration is trying hard to erase the LGBTQ community from the fabric of America, but visibility has always been one of the LGBTQ community’s greatest strengths.”

CORRECTION: An initial version of this article inaccurately reported transgender questions were never included in federal surveys, but at least federal surveys have included gender identity questions. The Blade regrets the error.

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GOP majority city council to repeal LGBTQ+ law in Pennsylvania

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move […] This issue should not be politicized”

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Chambersburg, Pennsylvania (Photo Credit: Borough of Chambersburg)

The council of this central Pennsylvania borough (town) will meet on Monday, January 24 for a likely vote to repeal an ordinance passed this last October that safeguards residents against discrimination based on their sexual orientation, ethnicity or gender identity.

Opposition to the ordinance is led by newly installed borough council president Allen Coffman, a Republican. In an interview with media outlet Penn Live Saturday, Coffman said, “All of us that ran in this election to be on council we think we got a mandate from the people,” he said. “People we talked to when we were campaigning did not like this ordinance at all. I don’t know what the vote will be, but I have a pretty good idea.”

The political makeup of the council changed with the November municipal election, which ushered in a 7-3 Republican majority.

The ordinance, which extends protections against discrimination to gay, transgender or genderqueer people in employment, housing and public accommodations, was passed in October by the then-Democratic majority council, Penn Live reported.

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move,” said Alice Elia, a Democrat and the former Chambersburg borough council president. “This issue should not be politicized. It’s an issue of justice and having equal protection for everybody in our community. It shouldn’t be a political or a Democratic or Republican issue. This should be something we are all concerned about.”

Coffman told Penn Live that the ordinance serves no purpose and is redundant. He points out that Pennsylvania’s Human Relations Commission handles discrimination complaints from residents across the state.

“There are no penalties, no fines,” he said. “There’s nothing that the ordinance can make someone do. The most they can hope for is that the committee request the two parties to sit down with a counselor or mediator and talk about it. Quite frankly there is nothing that compels them to. There’s no teeth in this.”

Penn Live’s Ivey DeJesus noted if Chambersburg succeeds in repealing the ordinance, it would mark the first time an LGBTQ inclusive law is revoked in Pennsylvania. To date, 70 municipalities have ratified such ordinances.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is one of the 27 states in the nation that have no explicit statewide laws protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.

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Florida House committee passes “Don’t Say Gay” bill

Equality Florida quickly condemned the measure

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The Florida State Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

The Republican majority Florida House Education and Employment Committee on Thursday passed House Bill 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill, colloquially referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill advancing the measure to the full House.

HB 1557 and its companion bill, Senate Bill 1834, would ban classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, erasing LGBTQ identity, history, and culture — as well as LGBTQ students themselves.

The bill also has provisions that appear to undermine LGBTQ support in schools and include vague parental notification requirements which could effectively “out” LGBTQ-identifying students to their parents without their consent.

“The Trevor Project’s research has found that LGBTQ youth who learned about LGBTQ issues or people in classes at school had 23 percent lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year. This bill will erase young LGBTQ students across Florida, forcing many back into the closet by policing their identity and silencing important discussions about the issues they face,” said Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project. “LGBTQ students deserve their history and experiences to be reflected in their education, just like their peers.”

In an email to the Los Angeles Blade, Brandon J. Wolf, the press secretary for Equality Florida noted; “Governor DeSantis’ march toward his own personal surveillance state continues. Today, the Don’t Say Gay bill, a piece of legislation to erase discussion of LGBTQ people from schools in Florida, passed its first committee and became another component of an agenda designed to police us in our classrooms, doctor’s offices, and workplaces. Make no mistake — LGBTQ people are your neighbors, family members, and friends. We are a normal, healthy part of society and we will not be erased.”

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than 42 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and non-binary youth.

According to a recent poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of The Trevor Project, 85 percent of transgender and non-binary youth — and two-thirds of all LGBTQ youth (66 percent) — say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health.

When asked about proposed legislation that would require schools to tell a student’s parent or guardian if they request to use a different name/pronoun or if they identify as LGBTQ at school, 56 percent of transgender and non-binary youth said it made them feel angry, 47 percent felt nervous and/or scared, 45 percent felt stressed, and more than 1 in 3 felt sad.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, the Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Get-Help, or by texting START to 678678. 

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NCAA adopts new policy amid fervor over transgender athletes

Sport-by-sport approach requires certain levels of testosterone

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NCAA, gay news, Washington Blade
The NCAA has adopted new policy amid a fervor over transgender athletes.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has announced it has adopted new procedures on competition of transgender athletes, creating a “sport-by-sport” approach that also requires documentation of testosterone levels across the board amid a fervor of recently transitioned swimmers breaking records in women’s athletics.

The NCAA said in a statement its board of governors voted on Wednesday in support of the “sport-by-sport” approach, which the organization says “preserves opportunity for transgender student-athletes while balancing fairness, inclusion and safety for all who compete.”

Although the policy defers to the national governing bodies for individual sports, it also requires transgender athletes to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sport’s championship selections. The new policy, which consistent with rules for the U.S. Olympics, is effective 2022, although implementation is set to begin with the 2023-24 academic year, the organization says.

John DeGioia, chair of the NCAA board and Georgetown president, said in a statement the organization is “steadfast in our support of transgender student-athletes and the fostering of fairness across college sports.”

“It is important that NCAA member schools, conferences and college athletes compete in an inclusive, fair, safe and respectful environment and can move forward with a clear understanding of the new policy,” DeGioia said.

More specifically, starting with the 2022-23 academic year, transgender athletes will need to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sport’s championship selections, the organizational. These athletes, according to the NCAA, are also required to document testosterone levels four weeks before championship selections.

In terms of jurisdiction, the national governing bodies for individual sports are charged determines policies, which would be under ongoing review and recommendation by the NCAA, the organizational says. If there is no policy for a sport, that sport’s international federation policy or previously established International Olympics Committee policy criteria would be followed.

The NCAA adopts the policy amid controversy over University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas smashing records in women’s swimming. Thomas, which once competed as a man, smashed two national records and in the 1,650-yard freestyle placed 38 seconds ahead of closest competition. The new NCAA policy appears effectively to sideline Thomas, who has recently transitioned and unable to show consistent levels of testosterone.

Prior to the NCAA announcement, a coalition of 16 LGBTQ groups, including the Human Rights Campaign and Athlete Ally, this week sent to a letter to the collegiate organization, urging the organizations strengthen non-discrimination protections as opposed to weakening them. The new policy, however, appears to head in other direction, which the LGBTQ groups rejected in the letter.

“While decentralizing the NCAA and giving power to conferences and schools has its benefits, we are concerned that leaving the enforcement of non-discrimination protections to schools will create a patchwork of protections rather than a comprehensive policy that would protect all athletes, no matter where they play,” the letter says. “This would be similar to the patchwork of non-discrimination policies in states, where marginalized groups in some states or cities are protected while others are left behind by localities that opt not to enact inclusive policies.”

JoDee Winterhof, vice president of policy and political affairs for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement after the NCAA announcement the new policy was effectively passing the buck.

“If the NCAA is committed to ensuring an environment of competition that is safe, healthy, and free from discrimination, they cannot dodge the question of how to ensure transgender athletes can participate safely,” Winterhof said. “That is precisely why we and a number of organizations across a wide spectrum of advocates are urging them to readopt and strengthen non-discrimination language in their constitution to ensure the Association is committed to enforcing the level playing field and inclusive policies they say their values require. Any policy language is only as effective as it is enforceable, and with states passing anti-transgender sports bans, any inclusive policy is under immediate threat. We are still reviewing the NCAA’s new policy on transgender inclusion and how it will impact each and every transgender athlete.”

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