The federal government ignores broad support, yet again, to collect population data on LGBTQ+ Americans in the 2020 Census and American Community Survey (ACS).

The American government runs on numbers. Although there are many reasons, especially in today’s political climate, to not want to be seen or counted, population data, for better or worse, is critically important to government functioning. It guides many hallmark aspects of government, including the electoral college, the federal budget, sponsored federal research, health and social service programing, and more. To government, this information is the great equalizer in which other surveys and data are considered in context. And as math will have it, to divide by zero is to be undefined.

It is now clear that the LGBTQ+ community will go another decade without federal support for any Census-based LGBTQ+ data collection efforts. The Census will more clearly reflect changes to federal policy in the previous decade by recognizing same-sex married couples, but gender identity and sexual orientation are, as former Census Bureau Director, John Thompson, put it, simply not “federal data needs”.

This decision stands in opposition to over 70 members of Congress and the recommendation of numerous federal departments, including the Department of Justice before the appointment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Although other private and non-profit entities have and will continue to work to address some of this data gap, the visibility of LGBTQ+ identities in federal surveys and resources reflect and inform systems that greatly impact LGBTQ+ health. 

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