The cancellation of the proposed inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity alongside gender, age, race, ethnicity, relationship and home-ownership status in the 2020 U.S. Census is an attempt to further erase and diminish the contributions of America’s thriving LGBT communities. We will not be made invisible — in fact, it is antithetical to the pro-business leaning of this new administration that LGBT status not be included in the Census. LGBT demographic data by way of the 2020 Census is vital in demonstrating that LGBT Americans truly do live and work everywhere, permeate all communities and contribute tremendously to the American economy.
As Nikki Barua, a National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Certified LGBT Business Enterprise owner, once said, “Visibility creates awareness. Awareness leads to acceptance. And widespread acceptance ends discrimination. You can’t change hearts, minds, and attitudes if you are invisible.”
Because of decades of historic underrepresentation and misconceptions about the LGBT community’s economic impact, NGLCC commissioned the groundbreaking "America’s LGBT Economy" report. LGBT-owned businesses in the U.S. add at least $1.7 trillion to the American economy and have created tens of thousands of good-paying jobs from coast to coast.
America's LGBT business owners are driving our economy upward and deserve every opportunity to continue to create jobs and innovate our industries. As this report proves, there is strength in numbers. So too must we be able to finally allow our community to be counted and represented in America’s national demographic and economic data as greater visibility leads to great connectivity and productivity. Imagine the potential for economic growth when resources, capital, and education can be best aligned to meet the need of our growing, diverse communities.
Every single day the estimated 1.4 million LGBT business owners whose interests NGLCC champions create jobs, innovate industries, and contribute extensively to the economic health and vitality of America. It is for the good of our country and the entire global LGBT community and economy that we never allow prejudice to diminish the tremendous contributions LGBT citizens make.
This active decision to omit our communities from the Census comes at a precarious time, as the Trump administration recently went back on its promise to be “respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights” and is now letting companies become federal contractors without proving they're in compliance with LGBT workplace protections. Business has long understood that protecting LGBT Americans is good for business, essential for creating a vibrant, competitive workforce, and a fundamental principle of a strong and resilient economy.
The president’s decision, both in regard to the Census and contractor documentation, is the wrong choice, both economically and morally, and goes against a best practices of the vast majority of America’s largest companies. Markets prove time and again that LGBT inclusion is good for business, employees, our supply chains, and our economy, and that there are negative economic consequences to discrimination.
Simply put: If LGBT Americans are adding so greatly to our economy, how can we possibly justify our government using those very tax dollars to jeopardize their safety and livelihood by both attempting to ignore their existence in the Census and undermine their protections in the workforce? Our community is watching, and we will use our economic strength to ensure the equality under the law that is entitled to all of us. Among the tools we have to fight discrimination and defend American ideals is economics. We should be doubling down on investing in LGBT-owned businesses and those corporations that support them, and boycotting those that support discrimination and repression.
This administration and Congress will require all of us to recommit ourselves to the most essential core value of the NGLCC — that our economy only succeeds when the American Dream is available to all LGBT and allied Americans. The great work to protect the well-being of America’s economy and expand the monumental gains achieved in recent years for the LGBT community continues. To do that, we must be counted. We will not be erased.
JUSTIN NELSON and CHANCE MITCHELL are cofounders of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. NGLCC is the business voice of the LGBT community, the largest global advocacy organization specifically dedicated to expanding economic opportunities and advancements for LGBT people, and the exclusive certifying body for LGBT-owned businesses.