If Congress fails to act during the lame-duck session, a series of onerous automatic federal spending cuts and tax hikes will go into effect on January 2, 2013. Failure to reach a compromise in this budget battle would be a painful pill to swallow for all Americans. But for LGBT people, failure to reach an agreement on the fiscal showdown would have particularly dire consequences.
If Congress fails to act, automatic across-the-board spending cuts will take effect under a process known as “sequestration.” Today a report released today by the Center for American Progress, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and a coalition of 23 national LGBT organizations highlights how across-the-board cuts under sequestration would reduce key federal programs and services that support the health, wellness, and livelihood of LGBT Americans and their families. For example,
- Sequestration would hurt LGBT workers. Sequestration would threaten the employment security of LGBT workers (who continue to experience high rates of bias on the job) because federal agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would have fewer resources to investigate claims of employment discrimination.
- Sequestration would compromise LGBT health. Cuts under sequestration would compromise the health of LGBT Americans by blocking LGBT seniors’ access to Medicare, reducing programmatic funding to health centers designed to serve the LGBT population, and impeding suicide prevention efforts aimed at helping LGBT Americans.
- Sequestration would harm LGBT youth. Sequestration would threaten federal agencies with the removal of critical resources used to prevent bullying and school violence against LGBT youth.
- Sequestration would exacerbate LGBT homelessness and housing discrimination. Across-the-board cuts under sequestration would limit the government’s capacity to address the high rates of homelessness among LGBT youth and to combat housing discrimination against LGBT renters, tenants, and potential homeowners.
- Sequestration would threaten the basic safety of LGBT Americans. Sequestration would restrict available resources designed to address the disproportionate levels of abuse, harassment, and violent crime committed against LGBT individuals.
While the CAP/Task Force report only touches on how these wholesale cuts impact LGBT Americans, failure to reach a deal on the fiscal showdown also means that tax breaks for lower-income and middle class families will expire. This means most families would face a higher tax burden if Congress fails to act. This would be particularly devastating to LGBT families who on average report lower incomes than families headed by different-sex couples. These families cannot foot a higher tax bill, especially when so many of them are already on tenuous economic footing.
In the remaining days of the 112th Congress, it is imperative that our lawmakers act swiftly to protect LGBT Americans from the severe sequestration consequences to federal programs that both directly and indirectly support them and their families. This means a combination of spending cuts that inflict minimal economic harm on American families along with modest tax increases on the wealthiest two percent of Americans. Only through this combination of cuts and revenue can we put our country back on stable financial footing.
To achieve this, however, congressional Republicans must abandon their quest to hold ordinary citizens hostage in order to protect tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. For all Americans—gay or straight, transgender or not—preventing millionaires and billionaires from paying their fair share at the expense of the middle-class is not in the best interest of the country.
Congress has a little over one month to broker a compromise. For all Americans – including those that are LGBT – the clock is ticking.