Trump’s Justice Department blocks monitoring of crimes against LGBT teens

U.S. President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions (Photo by Shawn Thew-Pool/Getty Images)

The Trump administration has abandoned plans to monitor crimes against LGBT teenagers.

In a notice on Wednesday, the Department of Justice, headed by anti-LGBT Attorney General Jeff Sessions, announced a revision to the National Crime Victimization Survey, one of the key sources of data on victims of crime.

Since July 2016, the NCVS had asked all respondents aged 16 and older about their sexual orientation and gender identity alongside other personal characteristics such as race and ethnicity.

But under the change, the survey will no longer collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity for people who are under 18.

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 13: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions arrives to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill June 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation and he was later discovered to have had contact with the Russian ambassador last year despite testifying to the contrary during his confirmation hearing. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (Getty)

A filing from the DoJ says: “The requested revision impacts the minimum age at which respondents will be administered questions on their sexual orientation and gender identity, raising the minimum age from 16 to 18.

“This revision, which will be implemented within 6 months of OMB approval, will not impact the burden hours associated with the previous 30-day request.”

The official filing claims the change was due to “concerns about the potential sensitivity of these questions for adolescents” – but the Justice Department has refused to comment on the decision.

It has led to strong criticism from the Williams Institute, which studies LGBT issues.

The Institute accused the department of “burying its head in the sand” after indications that LGBT young people are much more likely to be the victims of crime.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the press as Vice President Mike Pence looks on. (Mark Wilson/Getty)

Adam P. Romero, the Williarns Institute’s Director of Federal Policy and a scholar of law at UCLA School of Law, said: “Asking NCVS respondents to voluntarily and confidentially disclose their sexual orientation and gender identity provides crucial data on criminal victimisation of LGBT people, who are subject to high rates of hate crimes and other violence.

“The Bureau of Justice Statistics at the Department of Justice has been a leader in advancing knowledge about the LGBT population, but the Bureau’s new leadership seems to want to bury its head in the sand.

“While we appreciate the potential sensitivity of these questions for some people, no one is forced to answer them.”

The NCVS is one of two main sources of data on crime in the United States, and is a vital source of national data on policy-relevant subjects related to hate crimes, intimate-partner violence, and other criminal victimisation subjects.

U.S. President Donald J. Trump (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Kerith J. Conron, Blachford-Cooper Research Director and Distinguished Scholar at the Williams Institute added: “Youth have been answering questions about their sexual orientation for years, in numerous studies, as well as on federal surveys.

“We know that LGBT youth are more likely to be victimized, sometimes by their own families, and we need data from the NCVS to learn whether crimes are reported and how the criminal justice system is responding to young LGBT victims.

“Instead of dropping these items from the NCVS, which were cognitively tested and performed well, the Department of Justice should focus on making it easier for youth to answer questions by investigating strategies to improve the data collection process.”

Under Sessions, the Justice Department also blocked attempts to include questions on sexual orientation in the 2020 US Census, while similar data collection has been ended across government under the Trump administration.

LGBT activists say the jettisoning of data collection has worsened the ‘data gap’ that prevents experts from having enough information to adequately target services for the LGBT community.

The Justice Department has shifted strongly against LGBT rights in general since Sessions took power – with officials appearing in court to argue that discrimination against gay people should be legal.

The department has also sought to undermine civil rights laws protecting LGBT people in court filings.