Lawmakers Seek ‘Expanded Data Collection’ on LGBTs by Census Bureau

By Jose R. Gonzalez | May 6, 2016 | 4:06pm EDT
(U.S. Census Bureau)

( -- A group of 78 members of Congress have signed a letter asking a House subcommittee to recommend that the U.S. Census Bureau start surveying the U.S. population on gender identity and sexual orientation because the numbers of LGBT individuals “cannot be counted.”

The letter, which “expresses support for expanded data collection by the Census Bureau on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals,” was delivered to House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science Chairman John Culberson (R-Texas) and Ranking Member Mike Honda (D-Calif.), according to an April 5 press release.   

“The federal government, states, and local communities rely on Census and ACS [American Community Survey] data to determine how resources should be allocated to meet the needs of certain populations. Despite this critical mission, neither of these assessments nor any other major federal population survey currently asks respondents to share their sexual orientation and gender identity.  

“This means that even the most basic of statistics – the number of people who identify as LGBT – cannot be counted,” the letter states.

“Despite tremendous progress in the fight to secure equal recognition under the law, LGBT Americans continue to face discrimination in facets of everyday life such as in employment, housing, and even in the justice system.”

“Expanded data collection on LGBT people is needed to help policymakers and community stakeholders understand the full extent of these disparities, as well as identifying the needs of these communities so they can be better served. It is also crucial to our ability to respond with effective and sensible policy solutions that address the unique needs of this vulnerable population,” the letter continues.

“For these reasons, we believe that the Census Bureau should advance plans to expand LGBT data collection in future national surveys and urge you to assist us in reaching this goal. Therefore, we respectfully recommend that the Committee include the following report language in the accompanying report of its Fiscal Year 2017 CJS bill:

“‘The Committee is aware of concerns regarding the lack of reliable data on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) population in the United States. The Committee believes that the availability of such data on the size, location, and circumstances of the LGBT population would be useful to policymakers and researchers. Therefore, the Committee urges the Bureau to study the feasibility of expanding data collection on the LGBT population in its future federal population surveys and to report to the Committee within 180 days on its plans.’”

Though the letter references gender identity, it is unclear what gender options the lawmakers want the subcommittee to recommend the Census Bureau  make available to respondents. It currently offers two options: Male and female.

Social media has embraced multiple options on gender identity. Facebook previously offered users residing in the U.S. a total of 58 distinct options for gender identity. It now offers a “free-form field” where users may fill-in whichever gender-based identity they prefer.

However, the Census Bureau said last month that it has no plans to add additional gender categories to its questionnaires.

“Decisions on new content are reached through careful consideration and public input and linked to a federal, legislative or programmatic need for the data,” a written statement by the agency to explained“At this time, the Census Bureau does not have plans to test a transgender category for the 2020 decennial census.”

The letter’s lead signers — Representatives Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) — were joined by 72 Democrats and four Republicans. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) is the lone Republican member of the LGBT Equality Caucus to sign the letter.

Only the names of 20 of the 78 signatories were disclosed originally. After numerous attempts to get the full list, Schiff’s office finally provided with the names of all the signatories two days before Congress went on a one-week recess.

CNSNews cross-referenced the names with members of two different congressional caucuses, finding limited support for the letter’s request, even among LGBT advocates and self-identifying progressives.

Of the 78 signers, 41 are members of the 81-member Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus,which is dedicated to advocating LGBT rights in the U.S. and abroad.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus — a Democratic group composed of 69 House members and one Senate member — shares 31 members with the LGBT Equality Caucus, including Honda. Less than half (25) signed the letter.

The full list of signatories:

Brad Ashford (D-Neb.)

Ami Bera (D-Calif.)

Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.)

Julia Brownley (D-Calif.)

Lois Capps (D-Calif.)

Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.)

Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.)

Judy Chu (D-Calif.)

David Cicilline (D-R.I.)

Katherine Clark (D-Mass.)

Elijah Cummings (D-Md.)

Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.)

Danny Davis (D-Ill.)

Diana DeGette (D-Colo.)

Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.)

Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.)

Ted Deutch (D-Fla.)

Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

Donna Edwards (D-Md.)

Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.)

Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.)

Bill Foster (D-Ill.)

Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.)

Alan Grayson (D-Fla.)

Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.)

Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.)

Joe Heck (R-Nev.)

Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.)

Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas)

Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas)

William Keating (D-Mass.)

Dan Kildee (D-Mich.)

Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.)

Jim Langevin (D-R.I.)

Barbara Lee (D-Calif.)

John Lewis (D-Ga.)

Ted Lieu (D-Calif.)

Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.)

Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.)

Michelle Lujan Graham (D-N.M.)

Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.)

Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.)

Jim McDermott (D-Wash.)

Jim McGovern (D-Mass.)

Grace Meng (D-N.Y.)

Gwen Moore (D-Wis.)

Seth Moulton (D-Mass.)

Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.)

Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.)

Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.)

Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.)

Scott Peters (D-Calif.)

Chellie Pingree (D-Maine)

Mark Pocan (D-Wis.)

Jared Polis (D-Colo.)

Mike Quigley (D-Ill.)

Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.)

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)

Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.)

Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.)

Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.)

Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)

Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.)

Bobby Scott (D-Va.)

Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.)

Adam Smith (D-Wash.)

Jackie Speier (D-Calif.)

Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.)

Mark Takano (D-Calif.)

Dina Titus (D-Nev.)

Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.)

Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.)

Filemon Vela (D-Texas)

Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.)

Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.)

Peter Welch (D-Vt.)

Frederica Wilson (D-Fl.)

John Yarmuth (D-Ky.)

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