If the fracas in Washington, D.C., wasn’t so existentially serious for American democracy, Trumpmania would look like a bunch of concerned citizens trying to break up an amateur drunken WrestleMania brawl.
Donald Trump continues to toss out Twitter zingers to rile up his staunchest supporters and deflect from the FBI and congressional investigations into Russian intervention in the U.S. electoral process with possible collusion from the Trump campaign. Leading the citizen brigade in finding the truth about Russiagate is Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who told the Los Angeles Blade last month that there is an “absolute sense of alarm at how this administration is conducting itself.”
“Adam Schiff is the adult in the entire Congress right now on foreign policy and intelligence,” Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) told the Los Angeles Times. He is also a legislator who keeps an eye on his California constituency, including the under-covered attempts by the Trump administration to erase the LGBT community.
Schiff’s skills as a former federal prosecutor resulted in FBI Director James Comey revealing March 20 that there is an ongoing FBI investigation into Russiagate and “whether there was any coordination between people associated with the Trump campaign and the Russians.” Comey added that if any Americans colluded with Russian officials, “then that is a very serious matter.”
Comey also said the “FBI and the Justice Department have no information to support’’ Trump’s tweeted claims that President Obama and his administration wiretapped Trump Tower before the 2016 election.
Nonetheless, Republican Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes, who served on the Trump transition team, plunged into a series of Three Stooges-worthy capers trying to help prove Trump’s discredited tweet and wound up the ridiculed fall guy.
On March 31, Schiff went to the White House to see classified documents that Nunes touted as pro-Trump but failed to provide other committee members, a violation of protocol. Schiff and Trump “had a brief and cordial meeting in the Oval Office for about 10 minutes,” according to a committee aide. The “major topic” of discussion was an “infrastructure package,” something very much on the mind of California Gov. Jerry Brown during his March 20 trip to D.C.
Strict adherence to core principles and keeping an eye on California constituents may be why other members of Congress are facing tough town hall meetings—while Schiff is being applauded. On Saturday, April 29, Stonewall Democratic Club is honoring Schiff at Traxx Restaurant at Union Station with its Elected Official of the Year Award.
Indeed, as an elected official, Schiff can be swamped with Russiagate and stand up for the LGBT community. Before he went to the White House, Schiff released a letter, coordinated with Arizona Rep Raúl M. Grijalva and out Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, sent to U.S. Census Bureau Director John Thompson and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney “expressing strong disapproval of the Census Bureau’s decision to remove data collection on LGBT individuals for consideration for the 2020 Census and the American Community Survey (ACS).” The letter soon had 91 signatories from both the House and Senate.
The letter was in reaction to the discovery that a report submitted to Congress with a list of categories for data collection during the 2020 Census originally proposed including “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” but had been “corrected” by the Trump administration to omit those categories.
The LGBT Task Force found and highlighted the redactions. The Census Bureau explained that the categories had been “inadvertently listed.”
A week earlier, the Department of Health and Human Services removed a question about sexual orientation from the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants. Additionally, the Department of Housing and Urban Development withdrew two notices impacting data collection and implementation guidelines for a homelessness prevention initiative targeting LGBTQ youth, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Schiff, Grijalva and Baldwin are leaders in advocating for LGBT data collection. On April 5, 2016, Schiff and Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (who has a transgender son) sent a letter to House appropriators requesting funding for the U.S. Census Bureau to conduct LGBT data collection for FY 2017 and FY 2018. Grijalva and Baldwin also introduced the LGBT Data Inclusion Act last April that would require federal agencies to collect data on the LGBT population in federal population surveys so law and policymakers would have the necessary data to address the LGBT communities’ specific needs.
“[W]e are deeply troubled that in follow-up statements, Director Thompson claims that the rationale for excluding LGBT identities is that there is no federal need for such information,” the legislators said in their Census letter, noting that without such demographic data, “the number of people who identify as LGBT – is undeterminable.”
“LGBT Americans continue to face discrimination in facets of everyday life such as in employment, housing, and even in the justice system,” they said. “There is also compelling evidence that many, particularly transgender people, are at greater risk of being victimized by violence and experience significant health disparities and vulnerability to poverty. While the Census Bureau took an important step forward in 2013 by including the marital status of same-sex couples as part of ACS data on families, the fact remains that we know little else about the social and economic circumstances of the LGBT population at large.”
The lawmakers ask that the Census Bureau “acknowledge the concerns regarding the lack of reliable data on the LGBT population in the United States,” the lawmakers write, adding that they want “additional explanation” about why the categories were not included and “justification for stating there being no federal need for data on the LGBT population.”
LGBT Americans,” the legislators conclude, “like every American – deserve to be counted and recognized in all federally-supported surveys. We appreciate your attention to this important matter and look forward to your response.”
Here’s the full letter with the 91 signatories as of Friday, March 31:
Dear Directors Thompson and Mulvaney:
We write to express our strong disapproval of the Census Bureau’s decision to not include consideration of data collection on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals in the 2020 Census and American Community Survey. While the Subjects Planned for the 2020 Census and American Community Survey (ACS) report released on Tuesday, March 28th appears to have initially considered including sexual orientation and gender identity as a proposed subject, we are concerned that the finalized report does not include any reference to proposed inclusion of LGBT identities in the Census or ACS. Additionally, we are deeply troubled that in follow-up statements, Director Thompson claims that the rationale for excluding LGBT identities is that there is no federal need for such information.
As you know, the Bureau routinely collects demographic information through the decennial census and the annual ACS. The federal government, states, and local communities rely on Census and ACS data to determine how resources should be allocated to meet the needs of certain populations. Despite this critical mission, neither of these assessments, nor any other major federal population survey, currently asks respondents to share their sexual orientation and gender identity. This means that even the most basic of statistics – the number of people who identify as LGBT – cannot be counted.
A number of pieces of federal legislation passed by Congress, implicitly or explicitly, include protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Countless programs implemented under these, and other laws, serve LGBT people; some to a distinctly disproportionate extent. There is no doubt that there is both a statutory benefit and a programmatic need to collect sexual orientation and gender identity data if we want federal agencies to undertake their work in the most efficient and effective manner possible.
Despite tremendous progress in the fight to secure equal recognition under the law, LGBT Americans continue to face discrimination in facets of everyday life such as in employment, housing, and even in the justice system. There is also compelling evidence that many, particularly transgender people, are at greater risk of being victimized by violence and experience significant health disparities and vulnerability to poverty. While the Census Bureau took an important step forward in 2013 by including the marital status of same-sex couples as part of ACS data on families, the fact remains that we know little else about the social and economic circumstances of the LGBT population at large.
Expanded data collection on LGBT people is needed to help policymakers and community stakeholders understand the full extent of these disparities, as well as identifying the needs of these communities so they can be better served. It is also crucial to our ability to respond with effective and sensible policy solutions that address the unique needs of this vulnerable population. For these reasons, we believe that the Census Bureau should advance plans to expand LGBT data collection in future national surveys and urge you to assist us in reaching this goal.
In your recent statement, you said that the Census Bureau’s goal is to conduct a “complete and accurate census.” If this is indeed the goal, then the availability of data on the size, location, and circumstances of the LGBT population should be taken into account. Therefore, the Bureau must acknowledge the concerns regarding the lack of reliable data on the LGBT population in the United States. We ask that you provide additional explanation as to why sexual orientation and gender identity were not included in the Subjects Planned for the 2020 Census and American Community Survey (ACS) report, including justification for stating there being no federal need for data on the LGBT population.
The Census Bureau’s data collection efforts have always played a significant role in our ability to understand the communities that we represent and how best to serve them. LGBT Americans – like every American – deserve to be counted and recognized in all federally-supported surveys. We appreciate your attention to this important matter and look forward to your response.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)
Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ)
Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Richard J. Durbin
Jeffrey A. Merkley
Eleanor Holmes Norton
Danny K. Davis
Gregory W. Meeks
Hank C. Johnson
David N. Cicilline
Nydia M. Velázquez
Carolyn B. Maloney
Linda T. Sanchez
William R. Keating
Serrano, José E.
Lowey, Nita M.
Frederica S. Wilson
Michelle Lujan Grisham
Elizabeth H. Esty
Ted W. Lieu
Frank Pallone, Jr.
Val Bulter Demings
James P. McGovern
Susan A. Davis
Ruben J. Kihuen
Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Bonnie Watson Coleman
Grace F. Napolitano
Ben Ray Lujan
Sheila Jackson Lee
Donald S. Beyer Jr.
Sean Patrick Maloney