Last week, Family Equality, along with nearly 200 national, state, and local organizations, sent a letter to Congressional leaders asking that they ensure the protection of vulnerable communities in any COVID-19 response legislation. The letter was drafted by Family Equality, the Center for American Progress, the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National LGBTQ+ Task Force Action Fund, PFLAG National, SAGE, and True Colors United.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread rapidly throughout the U.S., communities of color, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ people are among those who will be disproportionately affected by COVID-19. At a time when so many must rely on assistance from government programs, services, and benefits, we cannot afford to exacerbate existing health and economic inequities by allowing qualified members of these vulnerable communities to be turned away on the basis of arbitrary factors, including age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, color, national origin, immigration status, or religion.
To that effect, the letter asks Congressional leaders to include specific language that prohibits such discrimination in all programs funded by COVID-19 response legislation.
“Now more than ever, we see how essential government services are to protecting and supporting the most vulnerable and at-risk members of society,” says The Rev. Stan J. Sloan, Chief Executive Officer at Family Equality. “We must ensure that all people have access to these critical programs.”
“Nobody should be left behind by government assistance during the pandemic. The crisis is sadly exacerbating existing inequalities and this Administration’s consistent attacks on the rights of LGBTQ people, women, immigrants, communities of color, people with disabilities, and religious minorities will undermine access to relief,” said Winnie Stachelberg, Executive Vice President for External Affairs at the Center for American Progress. “Congress must enact strong prohibitions on discrimination in relief measures.”
“As our country finds its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, the last thing that any of us should worry about is being denied health care simply because of who we are. For that reason, it is vital that Congress includes clear, unambigious non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people in future relief packages,” said Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “LGBTQ people already face preexisting health disparities. A key way to address this gap is to directly address one of its primary causes: discrimination. No one should be forced to confront bias due to who they are or whom they love, especially in a time of crisis.”
“It is a matter of life and death for LGBTQ people to be explicitly protected against discrimination in any legislative response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sasha Buchert, Senior Attorney at Lambda Legal. “Otherwise, the Trump administration will continue to target, hurt and exclude us. For someone who is LGBTQ, the fear that they will be denied life saving medical care or access to help for them and their families just because of who they are, is sadly very real. Overcoming this crisis requires that we all take care of each other, no exceptions.”
“LGBTQ communities know all too well the devastating effects of stigma, exclusion, and neglect during an epidemic,” said Imani Rupert-Gordon, Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “In this current crisis, our government must ensure that every person can access needed healthcare, services and economic relief without fear of discrimination including the elderly, people with disabilities, people of color, and those living in rural areas, low-income communities, or in other communities most affected by this virus.”
“The virus devastating our nation doesn’t care about your religion, gender identity, or immigration status,” said Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. When it comes to saving lives and keeping families fed and in their homes, we shouldn’t either. Congress needs to provide more urgent help right away, and make sure decisions are based on meeting basic human needs – period.”
“As a queer, gender non conforming woman, I worry about the people I know and love who are not currently explicitly protected from discrimination in the programs Congress has created or strengthened in the wake of our current economic and health crisis,” said Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National LGBTQ+ Task Force Action Fund. “If someone like me, a woman with short hair who dresses in more masculine attire was laid off their job tomorrow they could legally be turned away from a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or in some cases government programs because of gaps in our nation’s civil rights laws. All of who we are should be protected from discrimination no matter where we go so that those who need help the most get the support they need for themselves and their families.”
“Our families and LGBTQ+ loved ones are people of color, people with disabilities, women, youth and elders, religious, secular, and living on the brink in this uncertain time and waning economy. PFLAG National calls on our elected leaders to include language to explicitly prohibit discrimination in all COVID-19 bills,” said Brian K. Bond, Executive Director of PFLAG National. “All people, inclusive of our LGBTQ+ loved ones, deserve equitable protection under the law.”
‘We know that COVID-19 has dramatically impacted the lives of LGBT elders and are hearing reports of food insecurity, health concerns, and increased challenges concerning isolation. Given the heightened risk older LGBT people are facing, it is crucial that they are protected from the added threat of discrimination,” said SAGE CEO Michael Adams. “We call on our elected officials to demonstrate their support by providing our community with the necessary protections we all deserve.”
“Nondiscrimination protections are critically necessary to defend the health and civil rights of LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness during the novel coronavirus pandemic,” said Dylan Waguespack, Public Policy and External Affairs Director at True Colors United. “Now is the time to make sure all young people have access to housing and health care services without fear of discrimination or violence. Gaps in relief endanger us all.”
Family Equality advances legal and lived equality for LGBTQ+ families, and for those who wish to form them, through building community, changing hearts and minds, and driving policy change. Family Equality believes every LGBTQ+ person should have the right and opportunity to form and sustain a loving family, regardless of who they are or where they live. Learn more at familyequality.org.
SAGE is the country’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) older people. Founded in 1978 and headquartered in New York City, SAGE is a national organization that offers supportive services and consumer resources to LGBT older people and their caregivers. SAGE also advocates for public policy changes that address the needs of LGBT elders, provides education and technical assistance for aging providers and LGBT community organizations through its National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, and cultural competency training through SAGECare. With staff located across the country, SAGE also coordinates SAGENet, a growing network of affiliates in the United States. Learn more at sageusa.org.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.