The right to marry is but a small piece of LGBT equality, and new research is now illuminating just how rampant inequality is causing major hurdles to economic well-being for LGBT people.

The research, co-authored by the ubiquitous intelligencia outfit Movement Advancement Project (MAP) and the Center for American Progress (CAP) points out that anti-LGBT 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 healthcare costs,” according to a release. You can read Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for Being LGBT in America at lgbtmap.org/unfair-price.

“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, MAP’s executive director. “While families with means might be able to withstand the costs of extra taxation or the unfair denial of Social Security benefits, for an already-struggling family these financial penalties can mean the difference between getting by and getting evicted. 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.”

According to released materials from MAP and CAP, here are three main ways laws are failing to protect LGBT people, or at least engender equality for them at the financial level:

  • Lack of protection from discrimination means that LGBT people can be fired, denied housing and credit, and refused medically necessary healthcare 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 the same 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.

“Imagine losing your job or your home simply because of who you are or whom you love. Imagine having to choose between paying the rent and finding legal help so you can establish parenting rights for the child you have been raising from birth,” said Laura E. Durso, director of LGBT Progress at CAP. “These are just a couple of the added costs that are harming the economic security of LGBT people across the country. It is unfair and un-American that LGBT people are penalized because of who they are, and it has real and profound effects on their ability to stay out of poverty and provide for their families.”

Can things get better? Sure. Here are a few (simple) recommendations from the researchers: Instituting basic nondiscrimination protections at the federal and state level

  • Allowing same-sex couples to marry in all states
  • Allowing LGBT parents to form legal ties with the children they are raising
  • Protecting students from discrimination and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

For more information, go to lgbtmap.org.


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