SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico will begin routinely collecting demographic data about sexual orientation and gender identity during government surveys under an executive order signed by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
The order on Monday responds to growing concerns that basic demographic information about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender populations is being left out of an array of studies that shape public policy and governmental planning decisions.
California lawmakers in 2015 approved similar survey requirements at four health and well-being agencies. Officials at the National Institutes of Health are developing guidelines for collecting data on sexual orientation and gender identity to better serve unmapped LGBTQ populations.
Lujan Grisham said survey responses will be voluntary as all state agencies begin collecting self-identification information. The order prohibits the public release of any personal identifying information.
The governor called the order a step toward identifying and addressing inequities in access to public resources.
The executive order was applauded by several advocates for the LGBTQ community at a news conference in the governor’s cabinet room.
“If you really look at us as a community, we’ve never been asked who we are, ever,” said Democratic state Sen. Leo Jaramillo of Espanola, who is gay. “Now we’re included in a conversation and data-collecting that will then help in ways that we may not even see or think of.”
Marshall Martinez, executive director of the Equality New Mexico Foundation, said that public health officials have asked questions for decades about sexual orientation in the context of prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, slowing the progress of HIV in the process.
At the same time, silence on many other questionnaires about sexual orientation and gender orientation has reinforced harmful social stigmas.
“Being one of the first states in the country to do this will send a vital message to LGBTQ youth: You matter and your whole identity is respected and affirmed in New Mexico,” Martinez said.