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senate Bill S. 3314

Should the Census Ask About Sexual Orientation?

Argument in favor

The U.S. Census and the American Community Survey play important roles in the distribution of federal funds, social services coverage, and political representation. It’s important for their data to accurately reflect the American population as it is, and that’s only possible by including questions about sexual orientation and gender identity.

Alycia's Opinion
···
09/09/2018
I think by having a better understanding of our population we can use that information to back up a push for rights and benefits of the LGBT community
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Christina's Opinion
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09/09/2018
The U.S. Census plays a big role in the distribution of federal funds, social services coverage, and political representation. It’s important for it to accurately reflect the American population which can only be done by including questions about sexual orientation and gender identity. Since the LGBTQIA+ community largely favors this, so do I.
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Michael's Opinion
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09/09/2018
When people do not have the best interests of the LGBTQ community in mind when making decisions about our future that is a problem. If we as a country know how many people will be effected by the decisions we make that adds value. Information and knowledge is power. As a gay person I deserve to be counted and have my government know, we are a large and powerful community. Not having accurate statistics of minority groups gives the white male majority in government to continue to discriminate.
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Argument opposed

The Census Bureau has already concluded that there is “no clear federal data need” for these questions’ inclusion in its surveys. Additionally, it's questionable whether this information can be safely collected without risking LGBTQ individuals’ safety and employment, especially in states without anti-discrimination laws applying to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Dave's Opinion
···
09/09/2018
Census should be only a head count, it’s getting a little too personal and not on a needed to know bases. Industry and government has too much information as is. People are a Heinz 57 in race, religion and country of origin. Most is useless information as shown with DNA.
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Kodiwodi's Opinion
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09/09/2018
It’s never asked about heterosexuality or asexuality and apparently that’s still not vital to know, so NO. Stay out of issues you plan to discriminate on down the road.
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Lilly.Forest's Opinion
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09/09/2018
That is ABSOLUTELY NONE OF THE CENSUS’ BUSINESS! That it is even a question is disturbing!
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
    IntroducedJuly 31st, 2018

What is Senate Bill S. 3314?

This bill — known as the Census Equality Act — would aim to improve federal data collection by requiring the collection of information on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in the decennial census and the American Community Survey (ACS).

The bill would require the Secretary of Commerce to expand the Census Bureau’s data collection efforts to include the collection of data concerning sexual orientation and gender identity as part of the Decennial Census and ACS. The Bureau would be required to begin researching, identifying, and start implementing a plan to include SOGI questions no later than one year after this bill’s enactment. The decennial census must then include SOGI questions no later than 2030; and the ACS must include SOGI questions no later than 2020.

The Census Bureau would be required to include information on sexual orientation and gender identity alongside any decennial census or ACS report relying on gender or household data collected after the SOGI questions’ inclusion.

Robust confidentiality and privacy protections for all SOGI information would be maintained, as is required of all census data. Currently, federal law prohibits the Census Bureau from releasing any census information that would identify individuals until 72 years after it is collected — but the agency can release anonymized data about specific demographic groups at levels as detailed as the neighborhood level.


Impact

LGBTQ individuals; LGBTQ communities; American Community Survey; Decennial Census; Census Bureau; Secretary of Commerce; and Federal agencies using Census data.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 3314

A CBO cost estimate for this bill is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthSen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced this bill to ensure that the approximately 10 million Americans who identify as LGBTQ are properly counted and represented in Census data collection efforts:

“The spirit of the census is that no one should go uncounted and no one should be invisible. We must expand data collections efforts to ensure the LGBTQ community is not only seen, but fully accounted for in terms of government resources provided. This information can also provide us with better tools to enforce civil rights protections for a community that is too often discriminated against.”

Human Rights CampaignNational LGBTQ Task Force, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), and others support this bill.

In June 2016, then-Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro wrote in a letter to former Census Bureau Director John Thompson that “valid, reliable, and nationally representative data on sexual orientation and gender identity are essential to HUD fulfilling its mission,” including enforcing the prohibition against unlawful employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Likewise, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requested adding SOGI questions to the ACS survey to help its equal employment opportunity efforts for LGBT individuals.

Justice Department officials in the Trump administration have questioned the “appropriateness” of adding certain SOGI topics to the ACS survey. According to former Census Bureau Director John Thompson, the Trump White House never contacted the Census Bureau about this issue.

Some data privacy experts worry that sexual orientation information collected in the census could be used against LGBTQ people, especially in states that do not have laws banning workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender equality.

Within the LGBTQ community itself, there remains debate over whether it’s better or worse for the community to be counted in official government census counts. Jane Ward, associate professor of gender and sexuality studies at the University of California, Riverside, described the situation as follows:

“On the one hand, the mainstream gay and lesbian movement has always pushed for visibility, and a part of that is quantifying gay and lesbian identity. The logic there is that there’s safety in numbers and that the more of us who come out and get counted, the more legitimacy gay and lesbian people will have. This way of thinking has evolved past representation and into bio-essentialist claims that gay and lesbian people are born with homosexual constitutions that we can’t do anything about. As such, the mainstream gay and lesbian movement proposes that sexual orientation is immutable, and that there’s a large number of gay and lesbian Americans who should receive the same kinds of rights as other groups with ‘immutable differences,’ like race and gender, within the U.S. On the other hand, there’s a more queer perspective, which is weary of presuming that gay, lesbian, bi, trans people are discrete and bounded populations that you can easily count. As we become more attuned to sexual fluidity and the unpredictability of people’s sexual behaviors, presuming that we can count these identifications in a way that will tell us something meaningful is coming into question… So while I see the political efficacy of including sexual orientation on the census, which would certainly be useful for statistical claims related to inclusion and legitimacy, I also see why we might be less invested in quantifying queerness, too.”

There are 21 cosponsors of this bill, all of whom are Democrats.


Of NoteThere are two nationwide Census Bureau surveys: The U.S. census, also known as the decennial census, is performed once every 10 years to estimate population, age, sex, and race demographics. This census’ data informs how much money states receive in federal funding, and determines Congressional and state legislative districts. The American Community Survey (ACS) is an annual survey that looks at population and determines where to send services and resources each year.

Undercounting creates many challenges for LGBTQ communities, chief among them underrepresentation and a lack of resources in programs like Medicaid, Section 8 housing vouchers, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)..

During the Obama administration, federal agencies formed a working group to discuss how best to collect SOGI information on federal surveys.

Prior to President Trump’s election, four federal agencies (the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Justice Department, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Environmental Protection Agency) had asked to add SOGI questions to the American Community Survey. However, after President Trump’s inauguration, the Census Bureau concluded that there was “no federal data need” to ask about sexual orientation and gender identity on the ACS survey.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStock.com / South_agency)

AKA

Census Equality Act

Official Title

A bill to improve Federal data collection by requiring the collection of information on sexual orientation and gender identity in the decennial census and the American Community Survey.

    I think by having a better understanding of our population we can use that information to back up a push for rights and benefits of the LGBT community
    Like (146)
    Follow
    Share
    Census should be only a head count, it’s getting a little too personal and not on a needed to know bases. Industry and government has too much information as is. People are a Heinz 57 in race, religion and country of origin. Most is useless information as shown with DNA.
    Like (234)
    Follow
    Share
    It’s never asked about heterosexuality or asexuality and apparently that’s still not vital to know, so NO. Stay out of issues you plan to discriminate on down the road.
    Like (151)
    Follow
    Share
    That is ABSOLUTELY NONE OF THE CENSUS’ BUSINESS! That it is even a question is disturbing!
    Like (125)
    Follow
    Share
    The U.S. Census plays a big role in the distribution of federal funds, social services coverage, and political representation. It’s important for it to accurately reflect the American population which can only be done by including questions about sexual orientation and gender identity. Since the LGBTQIA+ community largely favors this, so do I.
    Like (91)
    Follow
    Share
    No! It isn’t relevant nor is it anyone’s business.
    Like (79)
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    Sexual orientation is irrelevant to the census report.
    Like (69)
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    For those of you wanting a list of the mentally ill in this country, I refer you to the republican voter registration lists. Sexual orientation is not a mental illness. Dogmatic allegiance to fact-less propaganda, be it based on ideology or religion is.
    Like (47)
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    When people do not have the best interests of the LGBTQ community in mind when making decisions about our future that is a problem. If we as a country know how many people will be effected by the decisions we make that adds value. Information and knowledge is power. As a gay person I deserve to be counted and have my government know, we are a large and powerful community. Not having accurate statistics of minority groups gives the white male majority in government to continue to discriminate.
    Like (42)
    Follow
    Share
    I don’t think there is any need for the Census to be collecting this kind of information. Even though I think this bill is well-meaning, I fear this data could be used for discriminatory purposes.
    Like (39)
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    NO! It’s no one’s business what a person’s sexual orientations!!!
    Like (26)
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    There is no need for the government to have this information. It provides a database for discrimination.
    Like (23)
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    The ACLU and the LGBTQ community support this bill introduced by Kamala Harris. While I have reservations about the possible misuse of this information I can also see the advantages of having the data in aggregate form. The advantages outweigh the reservations and for that reason I would urge representatives to support this Census data addition.
    Like (22)
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    Head count only
    Like (18)
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    Sexual orientation has no place in the census.
    Like (18)
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    That is beyond an invasion of privacy! It is Orwellian!!
    Like (17)
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    This is only a head count. Citizenship, religion and race should not be included in the census
    Like (17)
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    I do not trust why they would want to do that.
    Like (17)
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    Absolutely not.
    Like (16)
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    Not necessary! I totally respect those whose identity is non-standard. I believe in 100% equal rights for all LGBTQI - but this is not necessary.
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