Trump officials ‘blocked US Census data collection’ on LGBT issues

Trump officials revoked Obama-era requests for data on LGBT people to be collected in the census, documents have revealed.

Under President Obama, a number of government departments had formally requested that the US Census Bureau begin collecting data on sexual orientation and gender identity through the ongoing American Community Survey (ACS).

Documents published by NPR show that Obama’s former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro had argued that “valid, reliable, and nationally representative data on sexual orientation and gender identity are essential” to the government catering for LGBT people.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice under LGBT ally Loretta Lynch had also formally requested “that the Census Bureau consider a new topic in the ACS relating to LGBT populations”.

Donald Trump

However, under Donald Trump, that decision has been swiftly reversed.

Letters obtained and published by Democratic Senator Tom Carper show that under Trump’s anti-LGBT Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Department of Justice vetoed the inclusion of data on sexual orientation and gender identity.

After the transition, an official representing the Census Bureau had written to the Department of Justice suggesting the “appropriateness” of the measure had been questioned. The letter asks the Department of Justice to confirm whether it would like to proceed with the Obama-era request.

The letter says: “It has come to my attention that Department of Justice officials have recently contacted Census regarding the appropriateness of certain Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) topics on the upcoming American Community Survey.

“As you know, it is the prerogative of the Department of Justice to determine which topics it wishes to propose for inclusion in the Survey.

“In order to meet certain statutory reporting deadlines, my client, Census, seeks to determine whether the Department of Justice continues to view the placement of new content related to LGBT populations in the American Community Survey as necessary to meet the Department of Justice’s continuing needs and priorities.

“Please let me know whether the Department of Justice wishes to continue, modify, or withdraw the request made.”

In its response, the Department of Justice confirmed it would be withdrawing the request.

It said: “Your letter asks if the Department still wishes to maintain that request, and you have further indicated that a response is needed immediately.

“Because such a request requires thorough analysis and careful consideration, the Department is unable to reaffirm its request.”

After the Trump administration withdrew the request, the Census Bureau publicly announced it would not add questions on sexual orientation and gender identity

A public statement said: “We carefully considered this thoughtful request and again worked with federal agencies (…) Our review concluded there was no federal data need to change the planned census and ACS subjects.”

Speaking to NPR, Senators Tom Carper and Kamala Harris questioned the role of the Department of Justice.

They said: “These communications raise concerns about the role of the DOJ and its influence on government data collection.”

It is not the first time data collection on LGBT issues has come under scrutiny under Trump.

Earlier this year the Department of Health and Human Services was caught ditching data collection on LGBT people.

A question about sexual orientation was removed from the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants (NSOAAP), an annual national survey of recipients of services for elderly people.

Removing the question on sexual orientation was the only change made to the survey, and no justification was given.

The Trump White House has also ditched Obama’s annual proclamations for Pride Month.