Senate Dems introduce bill to include sexual orientation and gender identity on census

Two Senate Democrats are trying to ensure that the country’s largest survey, the U.S. census, will ask questions directly related to the LGBTQ community.  

Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) introduced the Census Equality Act on Tuesday, a bill that would require the Census Bureau to add questions about sexual orientation and gender identity to the survey by 2030.

The senators who backed the bill, including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Corey Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Kaine (D-VA), argue that the data obtained from the 2030 census will help LGBTQ people receive fundamental services like housing vouchers, Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

RELATED: LGBTQ history makers

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LGBTQ history makers

Bayard Rustin (1912-1987) - Civil rights activist and openly gay man. He served as an advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

(Photo by Patrick A. Burns/New York Times Co./Getty Images)

James Baldwin (1924 – 1987) - Civil rights activist and author from Harlem. He wrote his second novel in 1956 -- "Giovanni's Room." The work dealt explicitly with homosexuality and was published at a time when few other writers dared to publish gay-themed works, according to LGBT History Month

(Photo by Robert Elfstrom/Villon Films/Gety Images)

Alan Turing (1912-1954) - British mathematician whose work is widely acknowledged as the foundation of research in artificial intelligence.

(Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Moms Mabley (1894 – 1975) - Lesbian stand up comedian who starred in films and frequently headlined at the Apollo Theater. 

(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Marsha P. Johnson (1945-1992) - A famous transgender woman and LGBT activist, Johnson was a veteran of the Stonewall Riot in New York City. She and Sylvia Rivera founded STAR: Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries in 1970 to push for trans rights and offer shelter for homeless transgender teens.

(REUTERS/Diana Davies-NYPL/Handout)

Josephine Baker (1906 – 1975) - Singer, dancer and actress who became very popular in France in the 20s. She was also a civil rights activist. Baker was bisexual -- she married and divorced several men, as well as carrying on affairs with women, including Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

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Harvey Milk (1930-1978) - First openly gay man to be elected to public office in California when he served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977.

(Photo by Bettmann via Getty Images)

Alexis Arquette (1969 – 2016) - Transgender actress who transitioned to female in her 30s. She is known for her roles in films like “The Wedding Singer” and “Last Exit to Brooklyn.”

(Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)

Sally Ride (1951-2012) - America’s first woman in space waited until her death to tell the world that she was gay. The NASA astronaut’s obituary referred to “her partner of 27 years.” After Ride’s death, her sister wrote in an essay that she hopes “it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them.”

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Lesley Gore (1946 – 2015) - The famous American singer, most known for her hits “It’s My Party” and “You Don’t Own Me,” was openly gay.

(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Tennessee Williams (1912-1983) - Williams was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright, who wrote some of Broadway's most successful shows -- including 'A Streetcar Named Desire' and 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.' Several of his works were adapted into Oscar-winning films, starring Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor, among other famous actors at the time. 

Williams was in a relationship with his longtime partner, Frank Merlo, for 14 years until Merlo's death in 1963. 

Matthew Shepard (1976 – 1998) - Shepard was a student at the University of Wyoming when he was killed in a horrific hate crime. At the time, hate crime laws did not extend to the LGBTQ community. His death sparked a nationwide debate and ultimately led to the passing of new legislation -- the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (2009)

(Photo credit ANDREW CUTRARO/AFP/Getty Images)

Audre Lorde (1934 – 1992) - She considered herself “a black feminist lesbian mother poet.” She was also a vocal civil rights activist and leader for the advancement of the LGBT community.

(Photo by Robert Alexander/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Nancy Kulp (1921 – 1991) - Lesbian actress most known for her role as Miss Jane Hathaway in the popular ‘60s sitcom "The Beverly Hillbillies."

(Photo by Bettmann via Getty Images)

Rock Hudson (1925 – 1985) - The legendary actor kept his sexuality a secret at the height of his Hollywood fame in the '60s. Hudson was diagnosed with AIDS in July 1985 and revealed he was gay in a press release just months before he died in October of the same year. 

His death is credited with fueling Elizabeth Taylor's AIDS advocacy. 

Alvin Ailey (1931 – 1989) - American choreographer and LGBT activist, Ailey formed the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater in New York City in 1958. His dance company welcomed and celebrated black dancers who were frequently ignored by major companies. 

American drag queen and actor Divine (1945-1988, born Harris Glenn Milstead) - Milstead, who identified as male, found mainstream success with his drag persona -- Divine. Divine's biggest hit was in 1988's 'Hairspray,' playing the role of Edna Turnbald. 

At the peak of his fame, he died of an enlarged heart. 

(Photo by Tim Boxer/Getty Images)

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“The spirit of the census is that no one should go uncounted and no one should be invisible,” Harris said in a Tuesday statement. “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.”

The U.S. census, also known as the decennial census, is performed once every 10 years and is used to estimate population as well as age, sex and race demographics. The data collected from the census also informs how much money states receive in federal funding and determines congressional and state legislative districts. 

The Census Equality Act would also require the bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) to add questions related to the LGBTQ community by 2020. The ACS is an annual survey that looks at population and determines where to send services and resources each year.  

Data privacy experts still worry that the information provided to the census could be used against LGBTQ people, NPR pointed out. The legislation, however, would adhere to the same privacy standards currently used to protect all individuals who participate in the survey. The current privacy standard states that no identifying information can be published until 72 years after it has been collected.

Carper said in a Tuesday statement that the government has a “responsibility to ensure” that the census accurately portrays the American population and that “everyone is counted fairly.” 

“Today, despite the fact that roughly 10 million Americans identify as LGBTQ, the community is left unrepresented on the census,” Carper said. “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.”

Harris and Carper have been pushing for this change since the two senators sent a letter to Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson last year after the bureau removed questions of sexual orientation and gender identity from the 2020 census. 

David Stacy, government affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign government affairs director, applauded Harris’ and Carper’s tireless work in a Tuesday press release

“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,” Stacy said. “The Census and American Community Survey are crucial tools to meet these needs.” 

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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