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Census lacks key data on LGBTQ communities for redistricting

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Counties, towns and school districts across the state, and the Illinois Legislature, are drawing new voting district maps, with help from data from the 2020 Census.

Advocates for LGBTQ political representation argued the census figures lack key information. Sexual orientation and gender identity are topics not included on the census form.

Brian Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois, noted people who live with a same-sex partner are asked to indicate that in the census, but that is it. He said more comprehensive data is needed to ensure LGBTQ communities have adequate representation.

“It is really, really important that the next census gets more granular data on LGBTQ people, and where we live and how we live,” Johnson asserted. “So that not only can our districts be most appropriately drawn in this state, but so that a host of services that our community relies on can be adequately supported.”

Among Americans, 5.6% self-identify as LGBTQ, and in younger generations, the number is far higher. Yet fewer than 0.2% of elected officials identify as LGBTQ.

Johnson emphasized to achieve equitable representation, more than 28,000 LGBTQ officials would need to be elected across the country.

Much attention around community districting is on the congressional and state legislative processes, and Illinois is set to lose one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, but Johnson pointed out local maps are also important.

“You’re hearing questions around curriculum and affirming LGBTQ young people, and supporting them; health care and how that’s being provided by county officers and county elected officials,” Johnson outlined.

Johnson added while it is important to see strong LGBTQ voting power in some districts, people who identify as LGBTQ people live everywhere, in Illinois, and the nation.

“All our intersectional identities, our rural LGBTQ people, LGBTQ people of color, etc.; these voices have to be sought out and heard from, in every single district,” Johnson urged.

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