An effort to be more inclusive or attempted intrusion by the federal government? Democrats and Republicans took starkly contrasting views Tuesday of proposed legislation that would put voluntary questions about sexual orientation and gender identity on federal surveys.
Under the bill debated by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, federal agencies that collect data through surveys would be required to ask about sexual orientation and gender identity, but no one would be required to give the information nor would they be penalized for refusing to do so.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the committee's Democratic chair, said the measure would help make data collection as inclusive as possible.
“By including this, we can ensure that our policies are more equitable and inclusive of the constituents we serve," Maloney said.
Republican committee members called the measure government intrusion and overreach at its most personal. They proposed amendments that would require the legislation to offer a definition of sex and would limit the questions to adults only.
“We should be alarmed by this attempt by the federal government to gather such sensitive data,” said Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona.
Biggs proposed an amendment that would require data collection of people in the U.S. illegally, in a discussion that referenced then-President Donald Trump's failed effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
Maloney dismissed any comparison of the citizenship question efforts to the desire to get data on the LGBTQ community.
“Attempting a citizenship question was a fear tactic used to discourage certain people from participating in the 2020 census,” Maloney said. “This is a bill that will help us serve our constituents better.”
The legislation was debated at a time when the Census Bureau is requesting $10 million to study over several years the best ways to ask about sexual orientation and gender identity, and as President Joe Biden declared June as LGBTQ “Pride Month." It also is taking place as some Republican-dominated state legislatures have restricted what can be discussed about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools and banned transgender girls from competing in girls’ sports.
Several Democratic House members on Tuesday also urged the directors of the Office of Management and Budget and the Census Bureau to add a category of Middle Eastern and North African, also known as MENA, for the once-a-decade census and other federal surveys.
The Census Bureau recommended adding a MENA category to the 2020 census, but the idea was dropped by the Trump administration.
Decades-old Office of Management and Budget standards have designated Middle Eastern and North African residents as white. Adding a separate MENA category would help guarantee that residents with roots from this region get federal resources and produce more accurate data, said the letter to OMD Director Shalanda Young and Census Bureau Director Robert Santos.
“Since members of the MENA community trace their roots to either the Middle East or North Africa, OMB’s standards fail to capture the lived experience of many community members," the letter said.
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