This week, U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and Tom Carper (D-DE), both members of the Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced the Census Equality Act, legislation to require the U.S. Census Bureau to ensure the approximately 10 million Americans who identify as LGBTQ are properly counted for and represented in Census data collection efforts. The Census Equality Act requires the Census Bureau to begin the process of adding questions related to sexual orientation and gender identity to the decennial census and American Community Survey (ACS).
LGTBQ communities face many challenges related to this undercounting, chief among them underrepresentation, lack of resources, and discrimination. Despite the fact that millions of Americans identify as LGBTQ, only an estimated .1% of elected officials are LGBTQ. LGBTQ undercounting in the Decennial Census and the ACS result in an inadequate distribution of resources and social services including Medicaid, Section 8 housing vouchers, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
“The spirit of the census is that no one should go uncounted and no one should be invisible,” said Senator Harris. “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.”
“We have a responsibility to ensure the information collected by the census accurately reflects who we are as a society and that everyone is counted fairly,” said Senator Carper. “Today, despite the fact that roughly 10 million Americans identify as LGBTQ, the community is left unrepresented on the census. In order for our government and the businesses that drive our economy to work for the American people, they must have the most accurate and comprehensive data on those they serve. While long overdue, I am proud that this legislation finally calls upon the Census Bureau to add a question to the Decennial Census and American Community Survey on sexual orientation and gender identity – so that all Americans can be represented equally and have their voices heard.”
In addition to Senators Harris and Carper, the bill in sponsored by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patty Murray (D-WA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Gary Peters (D-MI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).