Trump Admin Blocks Democrats’ Push for 2020 Census to Ask About Sexual Orientation

Members of the LGBT movement hold a gay pride flag as they attend a march to mark the International Day Against Homophobia in Managua, Nicaragua
Members of LGBT movement hold gay pride flag while attending march to mark International Day Against Homophobia in Managua, Nicaragua / AP

The Census Bureau under President Trump reversed a decision requested by congressional Democrats and gay-rights advocates to ask Americans about their sexual orientation in the 2020 Census.

Activists in the LGBT community and Democratic lawmakers have been pushing for the next Census to gather information on sexual orientation to get a better picture of the American people's family and sexual dynamics, the Washington Times reported.

They appeared to have been successful when the Census Bureau said on Tuesday it would add "sexual orientation and gender identity" as proposed subjects for 2020. But the Census then removed the sexual orientation proposal hours later.

There is no "federal need" to collect information on sexual orientation, said a Census Bureau spokesman, who told the Times that members of Congress approached the Census to include questions on sexual orientation.

"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 bureau said in a statement. "This topic is not being proposed to Congress for the 2020 Census or American Community Survey."

The Census "gives a snapshot of same-sex households," the Times noted, although it has avoided more probing questions about sexual identity,

Still, Census experts created a foundation to ask such questions if the bureau decided to approve the new additions.

Congressional Democrats initially sought the change in questions last year, arguing information on sexuality would help them better tailor legislation to lesbian, gay, transgender, and bisexual Americans' situations.

The National Health Interview Survey and the Justice Department's National Crime Victim Survey do ask about sexual orientation, but opinion polls have served as the primary source of estimates for the size of the LGBT community, the Times reported.

Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson said the bureau's "goal is a complete and accurate census" upon releasing a report to Congress on the topics expected. He added that a key goal is "making it easier and more efficient for census takers to complete their work."

"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," Thompson said.

Gender identity might be included in the United Kingdom's 2021 census, although the country reported in 2016 that "challenges and difficulties" remained in obtaining that information.