After floating the idea in an initial draft, the US Census Bureau recently announced that the 2020 census would not include the option for LGBTQ persons to self-identify. This decision has rightly been met with outrage, because it denies lawmakers and their respective constituents access to data that would be used to shape policy and allow LGBTQ people access to opportunities and resources they’ve been denied for decades.
Although some data on same-sex couples has been available since the 1990 census, there still lacks a definitive figure assessing the numbers and geographic distribution of LGBTQ-identifying Americans. This is odd, given that numerous minority groups — ranging from ethnic and racial minorities to Americans with disabilities — are able to self-identify on the form, giving lawmakers visibility into their communities.
The 2010 census did not include an opportunity for participants to identify as LGBTQ, which was unsurprising, given the cultural and political stances on gay rights and marriage at that time. Both major-party candidates opposed same-sex marriage during the 2008 election cycle, and a select few states had legalized such marriages at that point. Since 2010, however, LGBTQ persons have cumulatively — despite opposition from religious and “traditional” lawmakers — made great strides in the quest for equality and visibility on a national level. By 2020, with national marriage equality a reality, and a recent ruling deeming that LGBTQ identity is a protected class under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that sense of liberation should empower more LGBTQpersons than ever before to self-identify on the census and provide the most accurate count of LGBTQ Americans to date.