Gary Gates urges against reading into LGBT redaction from the U.S. Census. Washington Blade photo by Michael Key

Gay Scholar Warns Against Reading Into U.S. Census Redaction of LGBT Categories


A leading gay scholar of U.S. LGBT demographics is warning LGBT rights supporters against reading too much into the U.S. Census Bureau's removal of proposed LGBT categories, saying the media reports on the development are incorrect.

Gary Gates, a former research fellow at the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, made the remarks on Twitter after a firestorm erupted over the U.S. Census Bureau initially proposing LGBT categories for federal surveys in a report to Congress only to remove them later in the day on the basis they were "inadvertently" included.

When the Washington Blade pointed out the U.S. Census Bureau without a doubt proposed LGBT categories and took them away by redacting the report, Gates said that isn't necessarily true.

In the weeks after the Department of Health & Human Services removed a question seeking to identify LGBT elders from a national health survey, Gates said the Trump administration is trying to remove LGBT people from data collection, but the redaction from the recent report isn't a good example.

For years, Gates has been a leading scholar on LGBT demographics, determining the percentage of LGBT people in the United States based on information in the U.S. Census reports. Based on the 2010 U.S. Census data, Gates determined that nearly 3 percent of the U.S. population identifies as lesbian, gay and bisexual.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Census Bureau delivered its report to Congress on the Subjects Planned for the 2020 Census and American Community Survey report. The appendix of the initial report indicated the bureau was proposing questions on sexual orientation and gender identity, but the agency later issued a notice saying those categories were "inadvertently" included and redacted them from the report.

Media outlets reported the move as the erasure from the U.S. Census of questions seeking to identify LGBT people, even though the survey has never included LGBT questions. LGBT advocates, who had been pushing for the inclusion of LGBT questions in the more detailed annual American Community Survey, denounced the redaction as an attack from the Trump administration.

The Washington Blade has placed a request with the U.S. Census Bureau seeking comment on why the categories were included in the first place, the reasoning for the removal and whether the redaction definitively rules out the inclusion of LGBT questions in future surveys.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association.This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National Gay Media Association.
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