Even During Coronavirus Crisis, LGBT People Need to Respond to Census 2020

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Despite the uncertainty being caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the LGBT community still needs to make sure it is counted in the 2020 U.S. Census.

And doing so has never been easier.

A Census form can be completed by mail, by phone, or online, according to Maria Melo, policy and operations manager for the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Public Policy and Community Building department.

Given the current COVID-19 situation where resources from the federal government are being allocated to states to respond to the crisis, we are reminded now more than ever on why we need to be counted,” Melo says. “Federal dollars for states are calculated based on Census data. Also, this determines how many state representatives will be in Congress to fight for what we need. We need to think of the future and how data can help save our lives and those of people in our community.”

The Census, conducted every 10 years, is also used to properly document changing demographics at the national and state levels.

“We will be able to count how many low-income people there are in our state who need access to public benefits, social services,” Melo explains. “That’s important for the LGBT community because so much of our community is disproportionately affected by poverty, unemployment, and needing access to food stamps, Medicaid, and housing benefits. We need to be counted to get the federal funding to do that.”

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No Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity Questions

The Center is part of the Queer the Census campaign by the National LGBTQ Task Force that seeks to ensure that groups historically undercounted in the Census are counted in 2020. This includes transgender and queer people, LGB people, people of color, immigrants, and people who are experiencing homelessness.

The Task Force pushed for the 2020 Census form to include questions about sexual orientation and gender identity, but the Census Bureau, which is part of the federal government, ultimately declined to add those questions.

“We didn’t get it, and it’s not in the Census,” Melo says. “But we are all committed to continuing to fight to get those questions in the Census. The fight doesn’t stop until we get it because we all need to be counted.”

The form does, however, include among its responses “same-sex husband/wife/spouse” and “same-sex unmarried partner” when asking about other people living in the household.

“The reality is there is one aspect that they can see through the responses that is important is same‐sex relationships,” Melo explains. “If the other person in your house dwelling is your partner or your spouse, then through responses, the Census will be able to count these relationships and also be able to see how many kids are being brought up by a same‐sex family.

When it comes to gender identity, “female” and “male” are the only options to choose from on the Census form, but survey takers can self-identify. The information is not cross-checked with a birth certificate or any other document.

There is also no citizenship question on the form. Data is encrypted and not traced back to the respondent. There are an estimated 904,000 LGBT adult immigrants in the U.S. today and 30 percent are undocumented. These are roughly the same numbers in the U.S. population as a whole.

There’s Still Time

Everybody who has an address and is not experiencing homelessness already received their Census letter on March 12. Ever since the Census went live online on March 13, 18.6 million households have responded to it.

Located online at 2020Census.gov, the census accepts response in English and 12 non-English languages.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the self-reporting period done online, by phone and by mail, has been extended through August 14.

For households that do not respond by that date, Census workers would begin door‐to‐door checks soon afterward.

To learn more about the Queer the Census campaign, visit lalgbtcenter.org/census.

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