Strengthening the economic security of American families remains a key policy priority for decreasing poverty, reducing inequality, and growing our economy through a sustained and supported middle class. Not all families, however, are equal under the law.
Unfortunately, many government-sponsored programs treat LGBT families differently than their non-LGBT counterparts. Due to narrow definitions of who constitutes a “family,” many of the more than 2 million children living with LGBT families do not have the same access to the economic safeguards afforded to other children in the United States today.
Moreover, this discrimination in government programs exacerbates the economic insecurities created by the high rates of unfair treatment facing the LGBT population. Discrimination in health care, housing, and the workplace leaves far too many LGBT families without health insurance, affordable housing, and a job to make ends meet.
No child should go hungry, uninsured, or homeless in the United States, regardless of the sexual orientation or gender identity of their parent. Still, LGBT families are among some of the most economically vulnerable in the United States. These American families need more economic support from social safety net programs and government tax breaks, not less. This is why the annual budget-making process is so crucial to the health, wellness, and economic livelihood of LGBT families.
Today, the Center for American Progress released an issue brief taking a look at three areas of the budget in particular that are crucial to LGBT families.
- Medicaid – Families headed by LGBT parents are less likely to have health insurance than families with non-LGBT parents. LGBT families often rely upon public health insurance programs – such as Medicaid – to help fill gaps in coverage. This is despite the fact that the program uses a definition of “family” that makes it more difficult for some LGBT families to access health insurance through Medicaid.
- SNAP – Recent research indicates that LGBT families may be disproportionately food insecure. This is why programs like SNAP (formerly the food stamp program) are especially crucial in reducing hunger for children being raise in low-income LGBT households.
- Financial Aid for Higher Education – Like Medicaid, the Federal Application For Student Aid (FAFSA) uses an outdated definition of what constitutes a “family,” making it more difficult for some LGBT families to access equal financial assistance for higher education. Children with LGBT parents need more financial aid to attend college, not less.
These American families need more economic support from social safety net programs and government tax breaks, not less. Unfortunately, Congressman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) proposed budget turns a precarious situation into a dire situation for these families. Instead of supporting the economic security of households headed by LGBT parents, just last week House Republicans passed Congressman Ryan’s budget which shreds the safety net to tatters, including the three programs outlined above (and then some). Put bluntly, the Ryan budget is a disaster for LGBT families.
Instead, these families need a budget that helps them meet their financial needs. Going forward, lawmakers should use their power of the purse to make sure that no family falls through the cracks during hard economic times, including LGBT families.