California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced today he will submit a letter to the US Department of Justice opposing the agency’s request to strike questions about sexual orientation and gender identity from the National Crime Victimization Survey. The Justice Department’s move would allow survey respondents to self-identify as LGBTQ only if they are aged 18 or older.
Becerra led a coalition of 10 Attorneys General in drafting and submitting the letter, which outlines how and why the collection of information concerning crimes committed against LGBTQ teens is essential to combat violence, bullying, and harassment, and other abuse.
“Once again,”Becerra said, “the Trump Administration has put its politics ahead of protecting our people–in this case, our children.”
Roughly 225,000 people above the age of 12 will take the survey. Respondents are asked whether they have been victims of crimes that include robbery, sexual assault, and aggravated assault, along with details about the crime(s) and whether they sought help from law enforcement. The survey asks respondents for information such as age, sex, race, religion, marital status, income, and–as of July 2016–sexual orientation and gender identity.
The latter two questions are included only in surveys distributed to people aged 16 and older–unless the Justice Department has its way, in which case 16 and 17-year-olds would not be able to self identify as LGBTQ.
Last month, when the agency submitted the request to raise the age, it cited “concerns about the potential sensitivity of these questions for adolescents.” Criticism from LGBTQ advocates and legal experts was swift.
Speaking to NBC News, Adam Romero, who serves as director of legal scholarship and federal policy at UCLA’s Williams Institute, explained the Survey’s questions are voluntary and confidential. Questions that ask respondents about their sexual orientations and gender identities, he added, are no more sensitive than others in the survey that concern crime victimization.
Becerra explained his opposition to the Justice Department’s request is motivated, substantially, by the imperative to protect youth who are especially vulnerable to violence and bullying. He cited survey data of California public schools that found LGBTQ students report higher rates of abuse, as well as both physical and verbal harassment.
This represents the second time in which Becerra–who is running for re-election–has squared off against US Attorney General Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions on issues that pertain to LGBTQ policy. In Nov. 2017, he filed a motion to intervene on behalf of the state of California in a case that challenged President Trump’s transgender military ban.