Connect with us

News

Harris, Carper seek answers on LGBT omission from 2020 Census

Trump accused of erasing LGBT people from decennial survey

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. sf4t9rfan

    May 24, 2017 at 3:37 pm

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

  2. Dianne Crandall

    May 24, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    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?

  3. CoastalMaineBird

    May 25, 2017 at 7:50 am

    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.

  4. Roger Young

    May 26, 2017 at 11:22 am

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

  5. MartiniShark

    May 26, 2017 at 4:20 pm

    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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Local

Anti-LGBTQ group claims Va. marriage amendment repeal will legalize polygamy

State Sen. Adam Ebbin rejected claim during committee hearing

Published

on

census, gay news, Washington Blade
(Bigstock photo)

A representative of an anti-LGBTQ group on Tuesday said the repeal of Virginia’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman would pave the way for the legalization of polygamy in the state.

“There are some, at least, very legitimate concerns about whether this would actually legalize polygamy, among other forms of marriage,” said Family Foundation of Virginia Legal Counsel Josh Hetzler.

Hetzler made the comment during a Virginia Senate Privileges and Elections Committee hearing on state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria)’s resolution to repeal the Marshall-Newman Amendment. Ebbin, who is the only openly gay member of the Virginia Senate, in response to the claim noted polygamy is a crime under Virginia and federal law.

“I take offense to the Family Foundation’s characterization that this would allow polygamy,” said Ebbin. “This has nothing to do with polygamy, what this has to do with is equality.”

Carol Schall, who, along with her wife, Mary Townley, joined a federal lawsuit that paved the way for marriage equality in Virginia, and outgoing Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck are among those who testified in support of the resolution. The committee approved it by a 10-5 vote margin.

Virginia voters approved the Marshall-Newman Amendment in 2006.

Same-sex couples have been able to legally marry in Virginia since 2014.

The General Assembly last year approved a resolution that seeks to repeal the Marshall-Newman Amendment. It must pass in two successive legislatures before it can go to the ballot.

Ebbin earlier this month told the Washington Blade he remains “hopeful” the resolution will pass in the Democratic-controlled state Senate. Prospects that the resolution will pass in the Republican-controlled state House of Delegates are far less certain.

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin before his election reiterated his opposition to marriage equality. Youngkin, however, stressed it is “legally acceptable” in Virginia and he would “support that” as governor.

Continue Reading

National

Jim Obergefell announces bid for seat in Ohio state legislature

Marriage plaintiff moves on to new endeavor

Published

on

First Amendment Defense Act, gay news, Washington Blade
Jim Obergefell has announced he'd seek a seat in the Ohio state legislature.

Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the litigation that ensured same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide, announced on Tuesday he’d pursue a new endeavor and run for a seat in the state legislature in his home state of Ohio.

“You deserve a representative who does the right thing, no matter what. You deserve a representative who fights to make things better for everyone,” Obergefell said. “I’ve been part of a national civil rights case that made life better for millions of Americans. Simply put, I fight for what’s right and just.”

Obergefell, who claims residency in Sandusky, Ohio, is seeking a seat to represent 89th Ohio District, which comprises Erie and Ottawa Counties. A key portion of his announcement was devoted to vowing to protect the Great Lakes adjacent to Ohio.

“We need to invest in our Great Lake, protect our Great Lake, and make the nation envious that Ohio has smartly invested in one of the greatest freshwater assets in the world,” Obergefell said.

Obergefell was the named plaintiff in the consolidated litigation of plaintiffs seeking marriage rights that led the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in 2015 for same-sex marriage nationwide. Obergefell was widower to John Arthur, who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and was seeking the right to be recognized as his spouse on his death certificate. The ruling in the consolidated cases ensured same-sex couples would enjoy the full benefits and responsibilities of marriage.

“We should all be able to participate fully in society and the economy, living in strong communities with great public schools, access to quality healthcare, and with well-paying jobs that allow us to stay in the community we love, with the family we care about,” Obergefell said in a statement on his candidacy.

Continue Reading

National

FDA-funded blood donation study recruiting gay, bi men

D.C.’s Whitman-Walker, L.A. LGBT Center working on study to ease restrictions

Published

on

gay blood ban, gay news, Washington Blade
A new study could make it easier for gay and bi men to donate blood.

D.C.’s Whitman-Walker Institute and the Los Angeles LGBT Center are among LGBTQ supportive organizations in eight U.S. cities working with the nation’s three largest blood donation centers on a study to find a way to significantly ease blood donation eligibility for men who have sex with men or MSM.

The study, which is funded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, calls for recruiting a total of 2,000 gay and bisexual men in eight U.S. cities selected for the study to test the reliability of a detailed donor history questionnaire aimed at assessing the individual risk of a gay or bisexual man transmitting HIV if they donate blood.

A statement released by the study organizers says the questionnaire, which could be given to a gay or bisexual person showing up at a blood donation site, could be a replacement for the FDA’s current policy of banning men who have had sex with another man within the previous three months from donating blood.

In the early years of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, the FDA put in place a permanent ban on blood donations by men who have sex with men. In 2015, with advanced HIV testing and screening techniques readily available, the FDA lifted its permanent ban on MSM blood donations and replaced it with a 12-month restriction for sexual activity between MSM.

The FDA further reduced the time of sexual abstinence for MSM to three months in 2020.

LGBTQ rights organizations and others advocating for a change in the current FDA restriction point out that at a time when the nation is facing a severe shortage of blood donations due to the COVID pandemic, the three-month donation deferral requirement for MSM is preventing a large number of blood donations from men whose risk of HIV infection is low to nonexistent.

Under the FDA-funded and initiated study, the American Red Cross, Vitalant, and OneBlood — the nation’s three largest blood donation centers — have been conducting the questionnaire testing since the study was launched in March 2021.

“To gather the necessary data, the blood centers will partner with LGBTQ+ Centers in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Orlando, New Orleans/Baton Rouge, Miami, Memphis, Los Angeles, and Atlanta,” the study organizers say in a statement on a website launched to help recruit volunteers for the study.

“The study will enroll a total of 2,000 gay and bisexual men (250 – 300 from each area) who meet the study eligibility criteria,” the statement says.

Among the criteria for being eligible, the statement says, is the person must be between 18 and 39 years old, have expressed an interest in donating blood, must have had sex with at least one other man in the three months before joining the study, and must agree to an HIV test. A negative test result is also required for acceptance into the study.

The study is officially named ADVANCE, which stands for Assessing Donor Variability And New Concepts in Eligibility.

“The ADVANCE study is a first step in providing data that will help the FDA determine if a donor history questionnaire based on individual risk would be as effective as time-based deferral, in reducing the risk of HIV in the blood supply,” the study organizers statement says.

“If the scientific evidence supports the use of the different questions, it could mean men who have sex with men who present to donate would be assessed based upon their own individual risk for HIV infection and not according to when their last sexual contact with another man occurred,” the statement continues. “The ADVANCE study is groundbreaking because it’s the first time a study is being conducted that could result in individual risk assessment for men who have sex with men to donate blood,” the statement says.

The Whitman-Walker Institute, which is among the community-based organizations involved in helping organize and conduct the study, is an arm of Whitman-Walker Health, the LGBTQ supportive D.C. health center.

Christopher Cannon, director of Research Operations for Whitman-Walker Institute, said that since the D.C.-based part of the study was launched early last year prior to the official announcement of the study on March 20, D.C. has surpassed the original city goal of recruiting 250 participants for the study.

“We are currently at 276 as of last Friday’s report,” Cannon told the Blade in a Jan. 13 interview. “And the current goal is now 300,” he said. “So, we’re hoping to push this over that goal line in the coming days and weeks.

Cannon said that like the community organizations involved in the study in other cities, Whitman-Walker Institute’s role has been focused on recruiting gay and bisexual men to participate in the study and to send them to the American Red Cross headquarters building at 430 17th St., N.W. near the White House. That site, which serves as a blood donation center, is also serving as the site where study participants are screened, interviewed, and presented with a detailed questionnaire.

“We promote the study within Whitman-Walker,” Cannon said. “We promote it to our networks. We did social media promotions across the city.’

Although Whitman-Walker doesn’t have the final draft of the questionnaire being presented to study participants, Cannon said he has seen “bits and pieces” of it.  

“They ask very direct questions about the person’s sex life, sexual partners, sex acts, numbers of partners,” Cannon said. “There are questions about condom use, PrEP use, drug use. How recently have you had sex? Lots of related questions,” he said.

“It’s really about trying to figure out effectively which are the best questions,” according to Cannon. “The hope is by analyzing the questions and identifying maybe the best 10 to 12 questions that can be universally used…to get the best answers that identify the individuals that may have the highest risk,” he said. Doing that, he points, out can help determine which men who have sex with men should be eligible to safely donate blood.

A statement released by Whitman-Walker last March calls the study a “monumental research effort” that has the potential to lift the stigma imposed on gay and bisexual men whose ability to donate blood is currently based on their sexual orientation.

“The ADVANCE study is designed to understand if, by asking carefully crafted and research-informed research questions, blood collectors can screen potential blood donors for their individual HIV risk factors rather than applying a ban against sexually active gay and bisexual men,” the statement says.

“The goal is to move away from overly broad questions that exclude potential donors and spread stigmatizing messages about MSM and their HIV risks,” it says.

Cannon said that as of last week, study organizers had recruited a total of 879 study participants nationwide out of the goal of 2,000 participants needed to complete the study. He said issues related to the COVID pandemic created delays in the recruitment efforts, but study organizers were hopeful the study could be completed by this summer.

Information about participating in the study or learning more about it can be obtained at advancestudy.org.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular