Legislators Support Census Counting LGBT

Katy Grimes: California’s legislators passed a joint resolution for the federal government to allow the Census Bureau to collect information about the sexual orientation and gender identity of America’s residents.

Well, not all of the state’s legislators voted for this.

Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, authored a senate resolution that would “urge the Congress, the President, and the Secretary of Commerce to enact legislation or adopt policies to have the 2020 Census and other surveys gather data on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Assemblyman Mike Feurer, D-Los Angeles, presented the resolution in the Assembly today, but it didn’t get everyone’s support.

Assemblyman Chris Norby, R-Fullerton, never one to shy away from opposition, said, “The purpose of the census is to apportion fairly and equally, representation amongst states, not pry into people’s personal lives.” Norby pointed out that the census does not ask about religion (yet), or other very personal matters. “That door swings both ways,” Norby said, warning of the potential consequences.

Kehoe’s resolution was sponsored by Equality California, a gay and lesbian civil rights organization that “works to secure legal protections for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT)  people.” The Equality California website states “EQCA works to achieve equality and secure legal protections for LGBT people. To improve the lives of LGBT Californians, EQCA sponsors legislation and coordinates efforts to ensure its passage, lobbies legislators and other policy makers, builds coalitions, develops community strength and empowers individuals and other organizations to engage in the political process.”

Legislative analysis of the resolution reports that Kehoe contends:

  1. the data gathered through the Census process do not provide a mechanism that allows California to access appropriate resources for the LGBT community; and
  2. if the Census Bureau were to count the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population in the decennial Census, the data gathered could be used to appropriately provide resources and services to this community just as it does for other communities.  Accordingly, the author writes that this resolution would put California on the record in support for the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity questions in the United States 2020 Census.”

A senate judiciary committee staffer wrote the analysis that stated,

  • “To illustrate the point that Census data actually helps identify unmet needs in a community, this resolution includes research findings from a 2003 study conducted by the Williams Institute (UCLA School of Law) indicating that, based on available U.S. Census data: 1) same-sex couples raising children have significantly fewer economic resources to provide for their families than their heterosexual married counterparts; and
  • same-sex couple families (as defined) are significantly more likely to be classified as poor than are heterosexual married families.  If true, this Census data suggests a discrepancy in the economic status of couples that may be statistically related to their sexual orientation, and thus a possible unmet need in the LGBT population.”

Lot’s of words like “likely,” “might,” and may” are used in the senate analysis of the resolution.

And the results I read in the study report say, “Same-sex couples that are racial/ethnic minorities are much more likely than their white counterparts to be raising their own children.  The resolution analysis appears biased, and analysis did not include, “These same-sex racial/ethnic-minority parents tend to be poorer than their white counterparts, or that “data for this report came from several Census 2000 public data releases.”

But based on additional information in the analysis, I can see why. “According to the author, the federal government has several competitive grant programs that address health and other issues that affect the LGBT community, including National Institutes of Health (NIH) research funding, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) initiatives regarding addiction and mental health recovery and treatment, and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) HIV and wellness funding grants.”

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, a member of the LGBT Caucus, and always charming and funny when he speaks said, “The door is going to swing both ways. The LGBT community wants to be counted.” But that is hardly adequate reasoning to allow the federal government to peer inside the homes of everyone living in America.

I agree with Norby. It’s a slippery slope when the government is authorized to pry into our personal lives — even further than is already taking place — and doing it through the census using a false argument. The express purpose of the Census, as stated in the Constitution, is for apportioning direct taxes and representatives among the States, and also determines how many electors a State will have in a presidential election. Just because the federal government is trying to give money away to special interest groups, does not justify violations of privacy.

And how the information is used is another issue. Many researchers and statisticians report that in some cases, conclusions that are drawn from census surveys, have been incorrect. It is imperative that the U.S. Census Bureau generate and release data that is beyond reproach, according to researchers, but that appears impossible given the collection methods used.

Other critics of the resolution say that the LGBT numbers have been greatly exaggerated in the media, and over represented  in government. Using census data could actually work against the community, should actual numbers be calculated and come in lower than expected.

Last week Ammiano jokingly announced that he and Norby were engaged. This week, they may just have broken up over this issue.

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  1. John Seiler
    John Seiler 23 August, 2010, 19:22

    I’ve boycotted the last two Censuses because the Constitution calls for only an “enumeration,” as Norby said, to apportion congressional districts. Nothing else. The government can’t even get this right.

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