Report: Discriminatory laws drive higher rates of poverty for LGBT Americans


A new report released Tuesday paints a stark picture of the added financial burdens that LGBT Americans face because of anti-LGBT laws at the national, state, and local levels.

The report finds that such laws contribute to significantly higher rates of poverty among LGBT Americans and create unfair financial penalties in the form of higher taxes, reduced wages and Social Security income, increased health care costs, and more.

lgbtThe momentum of recent court rulings overturning marriage bans across the country has created the impression that LGBT Americans are on the cusp of achieving full equality from coast to coast.

But the report, “Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for Being LGBT in America,” documents how inequitable laws harm the economic well-being of LGBT people in three key ways:

  • By enabling legal discrimination in jobs, housing, credit, and other areas
  • By failing to recognize LGBT families, both in general and across a range of programs and laws designed to help American families
  • By creating barriers to safe and affordable education for LGBT students and the children of LGBT parents

“Paying an Unfair Price”was co-authored by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) and the Center for American Progress, in partnership with Center for Community Change, Center for Popular Democracy, National Association of Social Workers, and the National Education Association.

The report documents how LGBT people in the United States face clear financial penalties because of three primary failures in the law”

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  • Lack of protection from discrimination means that LGBT people can be fired, denied housing and credit, and refused medically necessary health care simply because they are LGBT. The financial penalty: LGBT people can struggle to find work, make less on the job, and have higher housing and medical costs than their non-LGBT peers.
  • Refusal to recognize LGBT families means that LGBT families are denied many of thesame benefits afforded to non-LGBT families when it comes to health insurance, taxes, vital safety-net programs, and retirement planning. The financial penalty: LGBT families pay more for health insurance, taxes, and legal assistance and may be unable to access essential protections for their families in times of crisis.
  • Failure to adequately protect LGBT students means that LGBT people and their families often face a hostile, unsafe, and unwelcoming environment in local schools, as well as discrimination in accessing financial aid and other support. The financial penalty: LGBT youth are more likely to perform poorly in school and to face challenges pursuing postsecondary educational opportunities, as can youth with LGBT parents. This, in turn, can reduce their earnings over time, as well as their chances of having successful jobs and careers.

“Unfair laws deliver a one-two punch. They both drive poverty within the LGBT community and then hit people when they are down,” said Ineke Mushovic, Executive Director of MAP.

“While families with means might be able to withstand the costs of extra taxation or the unfair denial of Social Security benefits, for a family already struggling, these financial penalties can mean the difference between getting by and getting evicted,” said Mushovic. “Anti-LGBT laws do the most harm to the most vulnerable in the LGBT community, including those who are barely making ends meet, families with children, older adults, and people of color.”

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