LGBT Americans caught in "fiscal cliff" showdown

WASHINGTON — As “fiscal cliff” deliberations intensify on Capitol Hill, a large coalition of LGBT groups and a key ally release a new report, “Caught in the Budget Battle: How the ‘Fiscal Showdown’ Impacts Gay and Transgender Americans.”

The Center for American Progress (CAP), the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and a coalition of 23 other national LGBT organizations released the report that details the negative effects that sequestration would have on LGBT Americans in areas such as employment, health, housing, higher education and safety.

“If Congress fails to strike a deal before the end of the year, all Americans will suffer, including those that are LGBT,” said Jeff Krehely, vice president of CAP’s LGBT Research and Communications Project.

“Sequestration in particular would inflict significant harm by requiring wholesale cuts to programs that are critical to the health, wellness, and livelihood of LGBT people and their families. We cannot afford to let that happen.”

As this report details, many federal programs, both directly and indirectly, function to support and serve the LGBT population. If across-the-board budget cuts go into effect, this community will experience a host of negative outcomes as a result of sequestration, including:

• Threats to the employment security of LGBT workers because federal agencies would have fewer resources to investigate claims of employment discrimination

• Lower quality health care for LGBT families because of reduced programmatic funding used to address their health care needs

• Absence of critical resources from government agencies currently working to combat bullying and school violence against LGBT youth

• Limited ability of federal government to address the high rates of homelessness among LGBT youth

• Limited governmental capacity to prevent discrimination in housing against LGBT renters, tenants, and potential homeowners

• Hampered governmental efforts to prevent violent crime against LGBT people through enforcement of hate crimes legislation

“Lives are literally on the line if Congress lets our country tumble off this cliff. LGBT people and our families — like so many families — are already struggling in this recovering economy, and draconian budget cuts will only make things worse,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

“This critical report spotlights just how severe the consequences will be for LGBT people — from tackling LGBT youth homelessness and bullying in the schools, to fighting discrimination, to enforcing hate crimes laws, to ensuring proper health care for all. Our elected leaders must act responsibly and not put lives in harm’s way.”

Under sequestration, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces federal employment discrimination laws, would see an automatic cut to its budget in 2013, and these cuts will continue from 2013 through 2021 if no budget resolution is reached after sequestration occurs. As a consequence of these cuts, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would have fewer resources to investigate discrimination complaints and to enforce our nation’s nondiscrimination laws. This limitation has especially important implications for LGBT workers, who face extraordinarily high rates of discrimination on the job.

Luckily, many federal programs are in place to support the physical and mental health of LGBT Americans, some which are especially important for LGBT youth (for example, antibullying initiatives) and others for meeting the specific needs of LGBT elders (for example, resource centers and Medicare). For elder LGBT Americans, sequestration would cut Medicare payments to doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers for FY 2013. For LGBT youth, sequestration would reduce funding for agencies within the Department of Education and Department of Justice responsible for investigating bullying claims against students based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Housing and Urban Development Department has made significant progress in ending housing discrimination against the LGBT community. The department agencies, however, would experience a sharp reduction in program funding under sequestration. With fewer resources it would become more difficult to enforce the relatively new federal regulations prohibiting discrimination against LGBT renters, tenants and potential homeowners. Sequestration would greatly undermine the progress made over the past four years toward ending housing discrimination among this population.

As year's end approaches, Congress must come up with a rational and balanced solution to reducing our country’s deficit without compromising the health, wellness and livelihood of Americans, including those who identify as LGBT.

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