Your sexual orientation? Census sued over 'inappropriate' questions

(Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash)
(Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash)

The U.S. Census Bureau, the Department of Commerce and a list of federal officials have been sued over the inappropriate and invasive questions being asked by the government.

For most Americans the Census is once every 10 year.

But for many others, the American Community Survey comes each year.

It demands Americans reveal their job, gender, sexual orientation, children, divorced, income and much more.

Not answering can result in criminal charges and fines of up to $5,000 per question, the government claims.

But the Pacific Legal Foundation objects, and on behalf of Maureen Murphy of Washington and John Huddleston of California has filed a class action lawsuit.

“The Census Bureau can ask Americans any questions it wants but it cannot make them answer. Under its authorizing statutes, the Census Bureau cannot compel responses to surveys outside the 10-year census, it cannot make refusing to answer a crime, and it cannot unilaterally raise the penalty for refusing to answer questions on the 10-year census from the $100 authorized by Congress to the $5,000 per question it threatens,” the organization explained in a report about its actions.

“The Census Bureau does not have the authority to compel Americans to divulge any information it sees fit, beyond what’s needed for the 10-year census,” said Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Adi Dynar. “Congress has not authorized the Census Bureau to impose criminal penalties and fines for refusing to answer their intrusive, deeply personal questions.”

The case also names as defendants Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and Robert Santos, of the Census Bureau.

“Unlike the decennial census, the American Community Survey is conducted every year and asks detailed and personal questions such as the person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, fertility history, marital status, and divorce history,” the complaint explains.

“It asks about private health information, including the effect of medical and psychological conditions on the individual’s daily activities. It asks how much taxes and utility bills the household pays. It even asks how many beds, cars, and washing machines the household has.

Those questions target a few million houses every year, not the entire nation.

But Murphy and Huddleston “oppose the highly detailed and personal infromation demanded … and have refused to answer it.”

The complaint points out the Census agency “lacks the statutory and constitutional authority to force individuals … to answer the American Community Survey…”

Online, the questionnaire demands:

Rent or own?

Landline or cell or both?

How many cars?

What paid for taxes, mortgage, 2nd mortgage?

And then:

“Details of the occupants’ physical, mental, or emotional conditions…”

“Fertility status and whether the occupants have had children in the past year, have minor grandchildren, or provide for the grandchildren’s basic needs…”

And more.

They have no objections to the decennial census that determines the nation’s population, but Murphy and Huddleston will not answer the survey’s invasive demands, the complaint notes.

While the decennial survey is called for in the Constitution, that also forbids sampling.

And that, the lawsuit charges, is exactly what the American Community Survey is.

“The statutory authorization to ‘collect’ information does not give defendants the power to compel the production of information from plaintiffs, especially since the information defendants demand through the American Community Survey is not necessary for the ten-year census.”

While the law allows statistical adjustments “to ensure the accuracy” of the population count, they “do not give the defendants the limitless power to compel plaintiffs to produce personal information or opinions.”

The case seeks a court order halting the Census Bureau’s demands of the plaintiffs, and wants a class action designation so the ruling is “on behalf of all persons who refuse to answer.”

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This article was originally published by the WND News Center.

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