UPDATED: We’re Suing Two Federal Agencies To Release Information On Secret LGBTQ Policy

ben carson speaking at podium
Ben Carson, who is now the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

People For the American Way, the organization that runs Right Wing Watch, filed suit against the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development today to demand the release of documents concerning reported changes in federal policy toward LGBTQ people.

Right Wing Watch had filed Freedom of Information Act requests with both agencies asking for documents on reported actions removing mentions of LGBTQ people from federal announcements and programs. These reported actions were being taken quietly and without public announcement, raising the questions of who made the decisions, what the decisions covered, and whether agency staff had been directed to implement certain policies regarding programs affecting LGBTQ people without public knowledge.

In August, we asked HUD for copies of any directives to pull back from efforts to combat LGBTQ homelessness after New York magazine reported that department leadership had:

… ordered the removal of online training materials meant, in part, to help homeless shelters make sure they were providing equal access to transgender people. It also pulled back a survey regarding projects in Cincinnati and Houston to reduce LGBT homelessness. And it forced its Policy Development and Research division to dissociate itself from a major study it had funded on housing discrimination against gay, lesbian, and transgender people — the study ended up being released in late June under the aegis of the Urban Institute instead.

In September, after The New York Times reported that the Department of Justice had “scrubbed references to ‘L.G.B.T.Q. youth’ from the description of a federal program for victims of sex trafficking,” we asked DOJ for any directives related to that action as well.

Although the deadlines for fulfilling these requests have long past, neither agency has produced any responsive documents.

We have also recently filed a FOIA request with the Department of Health and Human Services regarding similar decisions to remove references to LGBTQ people from agency policies.

UPDATE 5/2/18: The Justice Department has produced a single one-page document in response to our request showing edits to the description of the sex-trafficking program. The document is heavily redacted, blocking out any reference to who made the edits or when or in what type of process. We are working to press the DOJ to release more information. In the meantime, you can see the document that they have produced here.