Celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride and the Movement Toward Economic Justice

By: Emma Williamson

Every June, much of the world celebrates and recognizes LGBTQ+ Pride Month. It is a month full of celebration and acknowledgment of the leaders and movements that have advanced LGBTQ+ rights, protections, and awareness. As organizations and advocates across the country use this time to inspire their on-going fight toward equality, the pursuit should include an emphasis on economic justice – particularly by ensuring that all in the LBGTQ+ community receive equal access to programs that help protect workers and families from falling into poverty.

Despite historic and momentous wins providing federal protections and rights, LGBT folks still experience high rates of poverty and economic insecurity – with 1 in 4 LGBT people earning less than $24,000 annually and 1 in 3 transgender individuals living in poverty. These rates are much higher than that of cis-gendered, heterosexual people and only get worse when including disparities based on racial and gender identity.

Federal benefit programs, job protections, and labor rights are often our nation’s first line of defense against poverty. In addition to critical benefits and supports like adequate health care access and child care, LGBTQ+ workers also need paid family and medical leave. Paid leave, which is particularly important for workers living in poverty, allows people to take time off for themselves or to care for a loved one without losing critical income or a job. Because members of the LGBTQ+ community face poverty at higher rates than cis-gendered, heterosexual individuals, access to paid leave programs can help increase their economic stability.

While taking time off for non-biological family members is common across all people, members of the LGBTQ+ community are significantly more likely than others to take time off to care for someone in their chosen family. Default legal definitions of family are often crafted quite narrowly, requiring a biological tie or formal parental guardianship. This is particularly problematic for paid family leave laws that often cut out individuals whose family and loved ones do not meet the legal definition of family.

Because families have been changing in the United States over the last several decades, the federal government needs to re-define familial ties using the most inclusive and broad language. CLASP has joined other civil and LGBTQ+ rights advocates and organizations to push policymakers for a more inclusive definition of family, suggesting it specify: “any other individual related by blood or affinity whose close association is the equivalent of a family relationship.” Expanding protections through inclusive language for the LGTBQ+ community will also ensure greater access to these critical programs for many other communities including those with disabilities and multi-generational households.

As we continue to uplift and celebrate LGTBQ+ voices, movements, and stories during the month, it’s important to acknowledge the deep struggles that many LGBTQ+ identifying people are still facing.  Economic justice is one such priority for ensuring that we truly achieve equality. Despite significant progress around LGBTQ+ rights and visibility, we still have a long way to go. An inclusive definition of family in many government programs, such as paid leave, is one of many steps to reducing and ending poverty in the LGBTQ+ community.