The U.S. Department of Justice has finally responded to a Freedom of Information Act request to release information. The request asks how LGBT people will be treated in the upcoming 2020 census, and many LGBT activists are furious with the answer.
“The Census should count LGBTQ people because we count. New information uncovered about the Trump administration confirms that the Department of Justice chose to halt the Census Bureau’s progress toward adding sexual orientation and gender identity questions to the Census,” said Meghan Maury, policy director at the National LGBTQ Task Force. “The Census controls billions of dollars in federal funding, determines our representation at the state and federal levels, and impacts scores of other programs like how our school districts are drawn.”
The Civil Rights Division must reverse its course, say activists. The National LGBTQ Task Force, People For the American Way, and several other civil rights and LGBT organizations want to ensure fair and impartial treatment for LGBT people.
“The Trump administration appointed John Gore (the attorney who helped defend North Carolina in a federal lawsuit against HB-2, the state’s infamous “bathroom bill”) to head the Civil Rights Division in 2017. Unfortunately, under the leadership of a champion of anti-LGBTQ legislation, the Division made a decision that betrayed the needs of our community,” said Maury.
On March 7, 2017, the Department of Justice told the Census Bureau it needed time to carefully consider inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity questions on the long-form census. LGBT advocates asked the Department to include these topics on the long form.
“The Trump administration appears to be hell-bent on erasing LGBTQ people,” said Diallo Brooks, senior director of outreach and public engagement at People For the American Way. “We are a significant part of the population. We’re here, we’re queer, we’re not going anywhere. We deserve to be counted in the Census.”
Brooks expressed frustration that HUD Secretary Ben Carson plans to strip from its mission statement HUD’s objective to help build communities that are “inclusive” and “free from discrimination.’ “This contradicts our nation’s purpose in creating the department and passing fair housing laws,” said Brooks. “The 1968 Fair Housing Act specifically charged the HUD Secretary with administering the law, created a new assistant secretary position devoted to fair housing, and directed HUD to administer all its programs in a manner ‘affirmatively to further’ fair housing and non-discrimination. This proposed change flies in the face of these mandates.”
Activists say this is more evidence that Trump administration officials are hiding discriminatory policy changes from the public. Earlier this month, PFAW filed suit against HUD concerning the removal from its website of important programs helping LGBT homeless people. This happened after months of waiting for an answer to requests for documents. The Freedom of Information Act request was made to ascertain who ordered the removal, why, and what else was covered.
“Today, the agency again releases no information about an important planned change, and only a leak from an unknown source provides the American people with any information about who is ordering this change and why,” said Brooks.
“We call on HUD to immediately release the complete leaked memo, to cancel plans to make this damaging change to its mission statement, and to release the information we have now had to ask for in court concerning efforts to write LGBTQ people out of federal agency programs and activities,” said Brooks.