Census changes course and agrees to leave sexual orientation question on survey

Advisers say Census staffers were unable to answer questions regarding the removal of a sexual orientation question

The U.S. Census Bureau is no longer considering removing a question regarding sexual orientation from a marketing survey for the 2020 Census.

Advocates have been alarmed at the Trump administration’s tendency to quietly remove LGBTQ questions from federal surveys, including those for older Americans. A working group within the bureau raised concerns over this latest attempt.

The National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations asked on a conference call on Tuesday with bureau staffers why they were considering changing the draft questionnaire for the Census Barriers, Attitudes and Motivators Survey (CBAMS). The survey helps the bureau understand how best to get hard-to-reach communities to participate in the upcoming Census.

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This is the first year the marketing survey has included a question about sexual orientation.

NPR spoke with four of the advisers inquiring about the planned change, and all of them said staffers struggled to provide an answer.

Those advisers are Hassan Jaber, from the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, Meghan Maury, from the National LGBTQ Task Force, and John Yang and Terry Ao Minnis with Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

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The Census Bureau has since released a statement pledging to keep the question in the survey.

“The U.S. Census Bureau continues to research and plan communications and outreach strategies to maximize response and participation in the 2020 Census,” the bureau said in a statement. “Similar to preparations for the 2010 Census, we will again conduct the Census Barriers, Attitudes, and Motivators (CBAMS) Survey designed to better understand the mindsets related to census participation across demographics subgroups, including the lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) population.”

“The question on sexual orientation remains a part of the initial set of proposed survey questions. Given the sample size of the CBAMS, the expected response rate, and the percentage of the U.S. population that is LGB, we would expect the survey to yield a sufficient amount of data upon which to make statistical inferences,” it continued.

“Make no mistake – public pressure on the Trump Administration works,” said Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force in a statement. “It was messages from the members of the National LGBTQ Task Force and our partner organizations that compelled the Census Bureau to reverse their appalling decision to stop counting us. Thanks to the efforts of people across the country, the Census will continue collecting data about sexual orientation. We also will continue to push them to collect data about gender identity. Data about the LGBTQ community is absolutely crucial to ensuring that we are distributed the resources we need, that we are represented, and that the most vulnerable in our community are protected.”

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Posted by Jeff Taylor / Social Media Editor

Jeff Taylor is a journalist and artist. In addition to QNotes, his work has appeared in publications such The Charlotte Observer, Creative Loafing Charlotte, Inside Lacrosse, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. He graduated from the State University of New York at Brockport and has lived in Charlotte since 2006.@jefftaylorhuman.