No, LGBT Rights Are Not and Should Not Be Dependent on Census Questions

This week's fake outrage confuses welfare spending with equal government protection and blames Trump.


Census 2010
Jim West imageBROKER/Newscom

This week in ginned-up Donald Trump administration outrage that distracts from actual issues: The Census will continue to not ask questions that they haven't been asking about LGBT people. This in some quarters has been presented as some sort of LGBT "erasure." It's not.

At least when activists within the LGBT and progressive community freaked out about the possibility of an anti-gay executive order coming from President Donald Trump's administration, there was actual documentation. It turned out that Trump was not interested in signing such an executive order and it never came to be. But at least there was smoke to be concerned about if not an actual fire.

Such is not the case with this week's LGBT anti-Trump outrage, which turns out to fundamentally be less about gay and transgender rights and more about organizations who want a slice of the great federal spending pie.

To explain: The U.S. Census put out a proposal earlier in the week for questions it may ask during the 2020 census. Sexual orientation and gender identity were among the potential discussion topics. This was not something the Census had asked previously, which you know if you've participated in a census, ever.

Then, the Census quickly explained that it had not intended to include the questions about sexual orientation and gender identity this time and withdrew the topics. So the Census, which had never asked people if they were LGBT before, is not planning to ask in the 2020 census either.

Cue the outrage. The first headline I saw came from Out Magazine, a top gay-targeted publication. The headline read "Trump Administration Omits LGBTQ People from the 2020 Census." My initial reaction was "Woo hoo! I don't have to participate in the census!" But even before reading I suspected that wasn't what the story actually meant.

The Trump administration is not omitting LGBT people from the census, and a writer actually analyzing how the announcement played out notes that the Trump administration might not have even played any role in the consideration of the questions at all. Even Snopes has gotten into the act with an explainer.

What actually happened is that the National LGBTQ Task Force, an activist group with an open, stated agenda of having these questions added to the census, put out a press release declaring their unhappiness in seeing the questions get deleted. I don't use "agenda" as a negative here, and I don't necessarily see an issue with the Census Bureau asking people their orientations for demographic purposes, as long as it's made very, very clear that answers are completely voluntary.

But there is a deliberately misplaced outrage here that wants to trick LGBT people into thinking that their rights and equal protection under the law is dependent on whether the federal government knows that they're gay or transgender. This is a seriously unsettling proposition. Here's a quote from Meghan Maury, criminal and economic justice project director of the National LGBTQ Task Force:

"Today, the Trump Administration has taken yet another step to deny LGBTQ people freedom, justice, and equity, by choosing to exclude us from the 2020 Census and American Community Survey. LGBTQ people are not counted on the Census—no data is collected on sexual orientation or gender identity. Information from these surveys helps the government to enforce federal laws like the Violence Against Women Act and the Fair Housing Act and to determine how to allocate resources like housing supports and food stamps. If the government doesn't know how many LGBTQ people live in a community, how can it do its job to ensure we're getting fair and adequate access to the rights, protections and services we need?"

What does demographic inclusion in a study have to do with whether LGBT people are treated equally under the law? Nothing. The Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, for example, is a ruling precedent that makes it clear that rights and privileges extended by the government are to apply equally. It doesn't actually matter how many gay marriages there are (which, interestingly enough, is the one area that will be counted in the census). Rights and freedoms are not based on head counts or a demographic analysis of where people live.

This isn't about rights. It's about money. This is about organizations and activists who are hoping to use this demographic data to get a bigger slice of federal funding. And that's infuriating. Even were I to accept that the federal government is a good mechanism for filtering money down to local charitable non-profits (and it's typically not—check out the problems with Community Development Block Grants here), this is a clear attempt to try to use demographic-based funding as a replacement for funding mechanisms based on actual customer bases.

Using myself as an example: I'm a gay man living in Los Angeles. I am fortunate enough (thanks to Reason's many supporters) to live comfortably enough to not need these government welfare or health services. But if these services could include me demographically as a potential customer then they could lobby for more money. That I might never set foot in these places is not relevant. These are organizations that serve gay people, and I'm a gay person, so give them money.

Imagine if public schools could get funding based on how many school-age children live in their district instead of actual attendance? The corrupt consequences would make the school system an even bigger disaster than it is now. They would care less about outcomes. They would care less if students even went to school.

This incident of phony outrage is particularly offensive because it takes the goals of certain social and political organizations with agendas that not all LGBT people share and attempts to argue that this is a mechanism to protect our rights and freedoms. And furthermore, they're arguing that we should be giving up our privacy as gay people in order to do so! Maybe ask some Japanese-Americans how that worked out for them during World War II? (Spoiler: It didn't end so well.)

NEXT: Enough Stranger Danger! Children Rarely Abducted by Those They Don't Know

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  1. This week in ginned-up Donald Trump administration outrage

    Probably more accurate than calling your website reason

    1. SIV, have you tried ginning up your gamecocks? They might win more battles and it will probably make them smell better.

    2. Someone please point out where the separate water fountains are for LBGTQ etc..

      Where are the rights of these people trampled upon.

      Is marriage not legal now between any two people or things that want to get married?

      And the bathroom fiasco is a non-starter because the whole thing was a massive distraction from the government’s failures.

      It is a non-starter because it cannot be argued by a sane person or just a non-sheep moron that you only have one choice for a bathroom. If you can get away with being a tranny in the wrong bathroom and you are not disturbing people, go for it.

      Got balls, your a man. Got a Vag, your a woman. You can act like you choose the other but that simply makes you a very confused and mentally disturbed person. Worthy certainly of sympathy but not worthy of a national discussion.

  2. If you don’t acknowledge someone, you’re shunning them.
    If you don’t give someone something, you’ve taken it away.
    If you don’t add check boxes, you want those people to disappear.
    If you don’t think Black Lives Matter is a threat, you’re an anti-white scumbag.
    If you don’t think blacks deserve reparations, you’re a disgusting racist bigot.

    Anybody else want to throw some in?

    1. If you are a Libertarian who did not vote for Hillary, you are a pro-Trump racist.

    2. If you don’t support making flag burning a felony, you’re an America-hating commie.
      If you support a minimum wage increase, you’re an America-hating commie.
      If you support worker’s unions, you’re an America-hating commie.
      If you support environmental protections, you’re an America-hating commie.


      If you take a nuanced or moderate position on anything, you are labelled awful by both sides. That’s probably my favorite.

      1. To be honest raising minimum wages makes you a commie. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”- Marx

        You’re on a Libertarian website, the need more protections for Nanny-State supporters is not going to fly here.

        1. I know. Point of fact, I’ve become a lot less convinced that minimum wage increases are the way to go, despite being a staunch supporter a year or two ago.

          I was merely pointing out that not toeing the line on a myriad of positions gets you blasted from BOTH (all?) sides.

          1. It will get blasted from the Libertarian side because mandated minimum wage increases do not do what people think they do. Mandated anything probably does not work as intended.

            Mandated minimum wage increases skew the employee-employer relationship and take wage bargaining out of the agreement. If the minimum wage is $15 and you do a job that is worth $8 to an employer, why would they hire you? Employers don’t or can’t hire for reasons like that because its not financially viable.

            I would rather work for $14/hr than not work at all but I cannot if the minimum wage is $15/hr.

      2. In fairness:

        If you support a minimum wage increase, you’re an America-hating commie. – you are probably sympathetic to the idea of communism which just makes you ignorant. Most marxists in America have no idea that they are marxists.

        If you support worker’s unions, you’re an America-hating commie. – again, mostly just ignorant to think that unions represent workers protections rather than what they really are. Unions are and have always been legal extortion rackets to squeeze business owner’s out of their profits and certainly are luddite factories of useless complainers. Almost all purported union protections are guaranteed by US labor laws.
        If you support environmental protections, you’re an America-hating commie. – I argue that enviro-whackos are more Marxist than concerned with the plight of the environment or the human condition. In fact, the green lobby ignorantly advocates for starvation and poverty with their business crippling regulations and vilification of fossil fuels which have improved everyones’ lives and should be allowed to continue to improve the lives of developing economies.

        1. You know, this was supposed to just be a list of stupid inanities that everyone could contribute to. But then you people had to come and ruin it by coming up with actual justifications for those inanities. YOU PEOPLE RUIN EVERYTHING!

          1. Sorry mate. How about if you are white, you are a racist, greedy, slave holding, oppressive, money stealing, privileged, etc….

            White people certainly are not tax paying, job creating, civil, educated, well parented, honest, citizens willing to compete in the marketplace for profit.

            All of these enviable and benevolent characteristics are obviously only reserved for the rioting, social justice, political pimping class.

        2. If you support a minimum wage increase, you’re an America-hating commie.

          Historically, if you supported minimum wage increases, you were a racist and a Democrat.

          Come to think of it, that’s probably still true today.

    3. If you don’t think big government is a good thing, you are a conspiracy theorist.

      If you think the media works in collusion with political parties, you’re a conspiracy theorist.

      If you think the military ind complex foments wars through their political yes men, you’re a conspiracy theorist.

      if you think the FED manipulations of market prices is a bad thing for generations in the future, you’re a conspiracy theorist.

      If you advocate for unfettered free markets and almost no government, then you are a delusional pot smoking libertarian.

    4. If you have a sense of humor, you are sexist, racist, Islamophobic, and homophobic Nazi. Actually, if you are white heterosexual man who works for living, you are sexist, racist, Islamophobic, and homophobic Nazi no matter what you do or think.


  3. Scott, I may not always agree with you but I certainly appreciate you providing a point of view as someone who is part of the LGBalphabet community. Keep up the excellent work.

  4. Sexual orientation and gender identity were among the potential discussion topics. This was not something the Census had asked previously, which you know if you’ve participated in a census, ever.

    I for one will not be satisfied until we can get everyone wearing some kind of lapel badge.

    1. But I don’t want to wear a ribbon!

      1. Who? Who doesn’t want to wear the ribbon?

  5. Out Magazine, a top gay-targeted publication

    Whoa… how did I miss that? I’ve been a subscriber for years and I never caught anything particularly… gay about the magazine.

    1. Whoa. Do I need to read the fine print on the inside cover page of my Backpacker magazine?


  6. And furthermore, they’re arguing that we should be giving up our privacy as gay people in order to do so! Maybe ask some Japanese-Americans how that worked out for them during World War II? (Spoiler: It didn’t end so well.)

    The disconnect is amazing, isn’t it? I’m wondering how long it will be until Muslim Americans demand to have their status counted and recorded on a government list?

    1. The irony to me is that if a Republican had demanded that those questions be added to the census the gay community would flip their collective lid about how the government wanted to document who they are. The disconnect is truly staggering.

  7. Gin up

    Gin up (or ginned up) means enliven, excite or enthuse. Its probable derivation is from the 1800’s British slang term “ginger up,” which referred to the practice of putting ginger up a horse’s butt to make him spirited and prance with a high tail, for purposes of show or sale. The other term for this practice is the verb “feague.” This is confirmed both by the online Phrase Finder from the UK and the OED. The Phrase Finder reports its use in the US prior to 1895.
    To gin up support for a cause.

    I need to try this next time I am falling asleep at my desk.

    1. Nah you should do it to someone else if you see them falling asleep. Surprise!

  8. ” Even Snopes has gotten into the act with an explainer.”

    Snopes was an awesome site that has become completely corrupted by partisanship. I used to point my relatives to it routinely when they would ask me about some stupid internet rumor. But it has become infected with the same kind of Left leaning bias that made Politifact an unreliable source after C-Span split.

    1. Maybe facts have a liberal bias, JWatts.

      1. they don’t.

  9. Ok, that’s two different Reason writers that today identified themselves as living in California. Do any of them actually live in states closer to the ideaologies they claim? Shackford’s complaints about non-discrimination law would be a lot more persuasive if he lived in a place that didn’t cover LGBT folk. As is, it’s even more “I got mine, who cares about you”.

    1. What are you, nuts? There aren’t any cocktail parties in those states.

      But seriously, I don’t think liberty minded people are obliged to live in less regulated states any more than they are obliged to stop using roads are decline to receive government benefits they are entitled to. For one thing, I don’t think it’s good to give up on those states completely.
      Anyway, I doubt he’d be facing a lot more serious discrimination in those other states either.

      1. I don’t think liberty minded people are obliged to live in less regulated states

        Yeah, this attitude ticks me off. I live where I live because I like my life – not because my politics match my neighbors’. Aside from one or two big issues (guns come to mind), the states and cities are more alike than people tend to credit.

      2. Anyone can live anywhere they want. More or less.

        It does send kind of a weird message though. Kind of like complaining you’re hot but refusing to move away from the wood stove.

        1. Maybe there are other reasons to be near the wood stove that are more important.

        2. It’s not like there’s a libertarian paradise out there in the US or anywhere else. Plus what Rhywun said.

        3. I live in NH, so all winter I get to hear people bitch about how cold it is and how much snow sucks, and then they continue to live in NH.

      3. Obliged to? Course not.

        But if you want me to take you seriously, then I expect a certain amount of “walk the walk”.

        Where’s the libertarian gays from pro-business Texas? What’s the conservative gays in Alabama? How come all the out gay Republicans/libertarians live in New York, DC or California?

        So no, not obliged to do anything. But don’t be surprised when I point out your life doesn’t match your rhetoric, and that the trend line is awful suspicious.

    2. Sullum lives in Dallas, IIRC.

      1. Not since he moved to Israel.

        Charles Oliver lives in (or near) DC IIRC.

        Peter Bagge recently moved out of Seattle IIRC, but is still in the same state: funny.

        Jerry Tuccille lives in NV.

  10. Let’s imagine for a moment that the idea of asking about sexuality on the census was not brought up under the Obama administration. Now imagine that the Trump administration suggested gathering data on the LGBT population.

    “Trump to create a registry of homosexuals!” would be the headline. The outrage would be ten times worse than this.

    1. Good point. It’s almost like we’re better off just ignoring the blatherings of “activists”.

    2. Excellent point. But if Obama did it, it would be because he wanted to send them all fruit baskets. Or something.

  11. It’s bad enough that they ask about race and sex and stuff in the census. We don’t need more demographic questions.

    Just count how many people live where and be done with it.

    1. But then how could anyone conduct proper polls?

        1. Oh Zeb. Ain’t nobody got time for “carefully”.

    2. “…as long as it’s made very, very clear that answers are completely voluntary.”

      The entire census questioning is voluntary.

      I never have and never will speak to those fuckers. I throw the forms in the trash.

      I wish with a cherry on top that someone would arrest me under Title 18 U.S.C Section 3571 and Section 3559, which amends Title 13 U.S.C. Section 221 or whatever BS the Census Bureau says. The Census was designed to register how many people there were in a state- That’s it! Central planners want more and more data and use information against people, so fuck them.

      1. I like to lie on the questionnaires. I got the long survey for 2010 and just made shit up. Nothing else happened.

        1. Yet. You have to wait for a Democratic controlled government.

    3. Then how do you distribute goodies?

      1. Throw them out of helicopters over populated areas.

        1. But if I want the goodies to land on gay populated areas, how do I know where they are?

  12. Let’s imagine for a moment that the idea of asking about sexuality on the Census was not brought up under the Obama administration. Then imagine if this suggestion was brought up while Trump was president.

    “Trump to Create Registry of Homosexuals” would be the headline.

    Comparisons to the Holocaust would be thrown around. Outrage would be ten times worse than this. You can’t fucking win with these puritanical professional victim asshats.

  13. …turns out to fundamentally be less about gay and transgender rights and more about organizations who want a slice of the great federal spending pie.

    Wait a minute. Were those supposed to be separate things?

  14. the Trump Administration has taken yet another step to deny LGBTQ people freedom

    What were the first (presumably, at least two) steps?

    1. To create a national registry of LGBT people.

      1. Oh, how could I have forgotten.

    2. People have lost their goddamn minds.

  15. Since the purpose of the Census was to distribute House seats why do they ask questions about Homosexuality, how many toilets you have in your house, how much money you make, etc when none of that has anything to do with distributing House seats?

    1. As always, the answer is “follow the money”.

  16. The census shouldn’t be asking any questions beyond those necessary to apportion congressional representation, per the constitution. The last time I got one of them, I told them the head count in the house, and the ages of myself and my housemates. Anything else is none of their damned business.


  17. Remember when the Census asking if you’re gay would have been proof they were going to round up all the queers for the death camps?

    Now I guess the problem is that they’re not interested in your sex life, because obviously it’s their business?

  18. We should just get Tommy Lee Jones from “No Country Old Men” to be cool as a cucumber and saddened by the state of affairs to gaze at the border.


  19. I wish they went back to writing “GLBT” so I could pronounce it as I used to: “glibbit.” What’s “LGBT”, “lichbit”? “Lybt”?

    1. In order to be inclusive, you must pronounce all of the letters. So it probably sounds something like Elgibeeteacueayeayplus.

    2. It’s definitley Lick, gag, blow, throat.
      Should an “A” in there somewhere.

    3. Imagine the confusion if you’re Hispanic and homosexual. Hispanics are already counted as white, so one has to subtract Hispanics them from the white total to find out what proportion of the population is non-Hispanic white, otherwise your total will come out to 117% or so. To figure out who’s Hispanic and gay would just be too tedious. In any case, it’s probably 1%, as it is for everyone else.

      But just once I’d like to be able to publicly “come out” as straight, and declare myself a NPITVR to the Census Bureau (a Normal Person Inclined To Vote Republican).

      1. There is no box for that; please exit the universe. Thank you.

  20. The facebook mommies are currently in an uproar because HR610 repeals a 1965 school funding law and also doesn’t mention the IDEA act.

    Wife calmed down when I showed her that the IDEA act was separate from the 1965 law and it wasn’t mentioned because it wasn’t altered.

    1. IDEA should probably be rewritten. It’s a well-meaning piece of legislation that isn’t really working that well.

  21. Let’s just impeach the orange traitor and then we won’t have to worry our pretty little heads about being “distracted” from the real issues.

  22. But there is a deliberately misplaced outrage

    The Left has had nothing to sell but the fear, hatred, and resentment of identity politics for decades.

  23. Come on. If the government doesn’t have you on a list, how are they gonna give you any rights?

  24. The idea that a government employee can come to your door, ask you who you like to sleep with, and punish you if you refuse to answer or give a false answer is scary.

    And it is just as scary that self-proclaimed LGBTQ-whatever organizations not only fail to be outraged at the mere possibility of it, but actually want it to happen. What is wrong with these people?

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  26. This is probably going to be considered off topic, but the stated constitutional reason for the census is to reapportion the house of representatives.
    So it would save a lot of money to send a postcard to the state registrars asking how many voters are registered and legal residents, and go from there. Doesn’t matter who you sleep with, what stall you use in what labeled bathroom, what color you see in the mirror, or anything else. If you are a legal resident and a registered voter, you get factored into the reapportionment.
    If all the businesses want some marketing data, they can pay for it themselves.
    Since all the federal goodies are given away based on “adjusted” numbers, just go ahead and make them up based on politics, instead of the pretense of “adjustment”, which is based on political power anyway.

  27. HEY!! the comment posted right away!

  28. Is theft, initiation of force or fraud of any kind justified? [Keeping in mind that use of force, any violence necessary for self defense, or defense of innocent others, is not in question here.]

    Why do so many people believe even some theft and all sorts of other aggression is good and right somehow – especially if non-voluntary government does it to OTHER people, not them of course?

    So they can reap the benefits of theft, coercion and control of others themselves, as much as possible.

  29. Homosexuals have ISSUES. Duh.

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