WASHINGTON — With the presidential election a mere two months away, the stakes are high for the estimated nine million LGBT Americans whose daily lives are limited by a lack of federal protections, and according to a new publication, most LGBT Americans live in a two-tier system where they must navigate conflicting state laws with the federal government’s refusal to offer the most basic securities, such as employment non-discrimination and anti-bullying protections.
An Ally’s Guide to Issues Facing LGBT Americans is a primer introducing the major areas in which unfair laws and stigma create extra burdens for LGBT Americans.
The resource, released Wednesday, was developed by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Log Cabin Republicans, the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), National Stonewall Democrats and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.
“LGBT Americans want the same chance as everyone else to pursue health and happiness, earn a living, be safe in their communities, and take care of their loved ones,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.
“Unfortunately, unfair laws, lack of legal protections, and outdated prejudices stand in the way of these bedrock American values. We must work to change the hearts and minds of our fellow Americans, guiding them to fairness and equality,” said Griffin.
The past three years have brought historic gains: openly gay and lesbian service members now are able to serve their country; LGBT people are included in the federal hate crimes law; and more states are passing or expanding laws which aim to protect LGBT individuals from bullying in schools and discrimination in housing and employment.
However, as detailed in An Ally’s Guide to Issues Facing LGBT Americans details, LGBT Americans are simply still not equal under federal law.
Many LGBT people experience discrimination when just going about their daily activities–whether eating at a restaurant with their families or friends, trying to obtain safe, clean housing or applying for a loan.
Contrary to popular belief, federal legislation does not protect LGBT people from discrimination in housing, public accommodations, credit or employment. LGBT people also lack such protections in most states.
LGBT workers often cannot extend their health insurance coverage to their partners or children. Without family and marriage tax deductions, LGBT families pay additional taxes but have access to fewer benefits like Social Security survivor benefits. Due to these and myriad other inequalities, LGBT people are more likely to live in poverty and suffer from health disparities.
“With all of the media and political attention on marriage, very few Americans understand the full extent of the inequality LGBT Americans face every day,” said Jerame Davis, Executive Director of National Stonewall Democrats.
“Kids in foster care are denied loving and qualified parents for no other reason than because those parents are gay or lesbian. Older LGBT Americans live in poverty because they’re denied access to Social Security survivor benefits. This resource highlights all of these issues and more in an accessible and easy to read manner,” said Davis.
R. Clarke Cooper, Executive Director of Log Cabin Republicans, said that “LGBT or straight, Republicans are united in the belief that strong families are critical to a free society, and that equal opportunity is essential to the American dream.”
Cooper added that the report will be “a valuable tool to persuade Americans of all political stripes of the need for equal protection for all families, including gay and lesbian service members and veterans.”
“LGBT Americans want to serve their country as civic leaders, elected officials, members of the military and volunteers. We’re doing so in greater numbers than ever before, but there is still a glass ceiling of prejudice that keeps us from reaching our full potential,” said Denis Dison, vice president of communications for the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Institute.
“The U.S. has never had an openly LGBT member of the president’s Cabinet, nor an out U.S. Senator. There are no openly gay governors, and more than a dozen states still have no openly LGBT state legislators. We’re working to level the playing field for LGBT Americans who want to serve their communities,” added Dison.