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Harris, Carper Introduce Legislation to Ensure LGBTQ Community Represented in Census and ACS

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, 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.”

The Census Equality Act:

  • Requires the Secretary of Commerce to expand data collection efforts of the Bureau to include the collection of data concerning sexual orientation and gender identity as part of the Decennial Census and ACS.
    • The Bureau must research, identify, and begin implementing a plan to include SOGI questions no later than 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act.
  • Outlines the following time line—
    • The decennial census must include SOGI questions no later than 2030.
    • The ACS must include SOGI questions no later than 2020.
  • Requires the Bureau to include information on sexual orientation and gender identity alongside any decennial census or ACS report that relies on gender data or household data conducted after the inclusion of SOGI questions.
  • Maintains robust confidentiality and privacy protections for SOGI information, as required by law of all census data.

The bill is supported by: National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, NALEO Educational Fund, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Human Rights Campaign, Indivisible, National Black Justice Coalition, People for the American Way, National Center for Lesbian Rights, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Sage, UnidosUS, Bend the Arc Jewish Action, Equality California, Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health, Movement Advancement Project, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, Family Equality Council, All-Options, Los Angeles LGBT Center, American Psychological Association, The Trevor Project, Witness to Mass Incarceration, CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers, Whitman-Walker Health, Center for HIV Law & Policy, A Better Balance, Union of Concerned Scientists, Equality North Carolina, FORGE, Inc., Bisexual Organizing Project – BOP, National Asia Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), and the Center for American Progress.

“The Census Equality Act would help address the LGBTQ community’s underrepresentation in federal data collection efforts,” said Human Rights Campaign Government Affairs Director David Stacy. “It’s absolutely critical that we have the hard data needed to find solutions and address the unique challenges Americans face based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Census and American Community Survey are crucial tools to meet these needs. We thank Senators Harris and Carper for their leadership on this vitally important legislation.”

“The Census Equality Act will put the Census Bureau back on the path it initiated two years ago to count LGBTQ people,” said Rea Carey, Executive Director for National LGBTQ Task Force. “We call on members of Congress to support a full, fair, and accurate Census by becoming co-sponsors of the Census Equality Act and opposing efforts to add an untested citizenship question to the Census.”

Last year, Senators Harris and Carper sent a letter to United States Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson on the removal of sexual orientation and gender identity questions from the 2020 census.

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).


A PDF of the bill text can be found here.


A PDF of the one pager can be found here.