NEW YORK (AP) — A question on sexuality slated for deletion from a federal survey has been restored, officials said Thursday, responding to an outcry from LGBT advocates who said the Trump administration was trying to erase data on their community.
The query was a proposed change to an annual Department of Health and Human Services survey of those taking part in various programs funded by the Older Americans Act, from transportation, homemaker and meal services to senior centers. Its removal, combined with similar moves on other surveys, alarmed watchdogs who said it could point to the manipulation of government data-collection to serve the ideology of an administration they view as hostile to their causes.
In announcing the about-face, HHS’ Administration for Community Living said it had received comments from 89 organizations and nearly 14,000 individuals since its March announcement, the majority asking the agency to retain the question. A number of lawmakers also rejected the proposed deletion, including the leaders of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
A follow-up query seeking to gather data on transgender people remains slated for deletion. The advocacy group SAGE, which represents lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender seniors, said it would fight to restore that question as well. “If the administration thinks that with this partial victory SAGE will now abandon trans elders, it’s in for a big surprise,” said Michael Adams, the organization’s CEO.
The LGBT question was introduced on the survey in 2014, a move heralded by gay rights groups because of the dearth of federally-collected data of their communities and the potential to validate programs or identify areas where services may be inadequate.
Since the start of the Trump administration, several surveys have drawn attention for modifications around LGBT issues. Another HHS survey removed a sexual orientation question, a Department of Housing and Urban Development survey on LGBT homelessness was withdrawn altogether, and the Census Bureau said it was not adding questions on orientation and gender identity as expected.
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