Senate Dems object to removal of LGBTQ health data from gov’t websites

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ABOVE: Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key.

A group of 17 Senate Democrats led by Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) have expressed “serious concerns” with the Trump administration about the removal of LGBTQ health data from government websites and are calling for the restoration of the information.

In a letter to the White House dated April 12, the lawmakers decried the recently reported removal of information on LGBTQ health data from the Department of Health & Human Services website for the Office of Women’s Health as well as and the removal of LGBTQ population-based data reports from the Federal Committee of Statistical Methodology website for the Office of Management & Budget.

“We are troubled by these recent actions, which, coupled with other actions your administration has taken to restrict information for LGBT people, reveal a pattern of censorship that fosters discrimination and undermines access to evidence-based health care resources that aid millions across the country,” the senators write. “These actions could seriously compromise the health of LGBT individuals, who have less access to health care than the general population and suffer disproportionately from of a wide range of health conditions and disparities due to societal stigma and discrimination.”

According to Politico, HHS said the pages and links, some of which were first posted in 2012, were taken down as part of a routine update. However, the Sunlight Foundation, a government accountability non-profit, determined existing health topic pages do not appear to have been updated with new material and the now-missing lesbian and bisexual health content wasn’t integrated elsewhere.

The removal of LGBTQ information from U.S. government websites has been a consistent theme over the course of the Trump administration. As the Washington Blade has previous reported, LGBTQ information on U.S. government websites found during the Obama years was removed the White House and Small Business Administration websites.

The senators pose seven questions to the White House on the removal of LGBTQ health data from the HHS and OMB websites.

1. Why did HHS elect to remove or change the LGBT resources on the OWH website? Why did these changes occur without providing any notice or explanation to site users or the public?
2. What plans do you have to communicate these changes to site users and the public?
3. Were these actions taken in consultation with HHS stakeholders and partners? If so, with whom, and what feedback did they provide?
4. It was reported by HHS that the OWH pages were removed as part of a routine update. However, existing health topic pages do not appear to be updated, and the missing content has not been integrated into other areas of the site, as reported by an HHS spokesperson. What efforts are being made to update the materials, and on what date will this information in its entirety be available again on the OWH website?
5. Why were policy papers and reports on sexual orientation and gender identity data collection efforts removed or rendered inaccessible from the FCSM website? What federal departments were involved in making this decision?
6. Why was the FCSM website relocated from the OMB website to the National Center for Education Statistics within the Department of Education website?
7. Will the information on sexual orientation and gender identity data collection from the former FCSM site be made available on the new website within the National Center for Education Statistics? If so, when?

In addition to seeking answers to these questions, the senators urge the White House to restore the LGBTQ health data to the websites.

“You have repeatedly broken your campaign promises to support and protect the LGBT community, and this latest assault on a vulnerable population could further compromise the health of more than ten million LGBT people,” the senators conclude. “We are concerned that you are putting politics ahead of science and access to evidence-based health care that is critical for millions, and so we call on you to reverse course to ensure that our federal programs serve the needs of all people.”

The Blade has placed a request in with the White House seeking comment on the letter.

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