Connecticut leads the way in LGBTQ+ protections, but it is time for the federal government to catch up. From difficulties obtaining life-saving medical treatment and identity-affirming healthcare to accessing employment, paid leave, shelter, and housing, our LGBTQ+ friends and neighbors still struggle with the indignities that come with discriminatory laws that jeopardize their safety, security, and prosperity.
That is why I am proud to support the Equality Act, which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, federally funded programs, credit, and jury service. This legislation is long overdue, but in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “the time is always right to do the right thing.”
Across our country, the pandemic has disproportionately affected members of the LGBTQ+ community. Discrimination, stigma, bias, and oppression have hindered LGBTQ+ individuals from obtaining testing, treatment, and preventative care. And this has put the community at much greater risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing life-threatening complications.
According to the U.S. Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, the LGBTQ+ community has higher rates of preexisting conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, obesity, autoimmune disorders, chronic pain, and cancer. These issues are compounded by higher rates of alcoholism, drug use, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, gender dysphoria, obsessive-compulsive disorder, suicidal behaviors, and isolation. Additionally, because COVID-19 forced hospitals to shift resources toward treating COVID-19 patients, LGBTQ+ individuals were no longer able to obtain preventative or palliative care, putting them at even greater risk to COVID-19 infection and complications.
According to research conducted by the Human Rights Campaign in partnership with PSB Insights, LGBTQ+ communities were more likely to either have their hours cut or lose their jobs altogether during the pandemic. In fact, according to a later poll, 17 percent of LGBTQ+ people lost their jobs because of the pandemic, compared to 13 percent of the general population. Unsurprisingly, these economic and occupational difficulties had a severe impact on housing security for LGBTQ+ communities as well. Though the CDC’s eviction moratorium prevented many LGBTQ+ individuals from being evicted during the pandemic, many landlords either ignored the law outright or took advantage of loopholes that put an increasing number of LGBTQ+ people on the street. Now with the eviction moratorium about to end on July 31, 2021, millions of American households still face foreclosure or eviction.
This could be catastrophic especially for LGBTQ+ individuals who face greater difficulties in obtaining safe, identity-affirming accommodations. During the pandemic, college students who previously relied on campus housing were forced to return to potentially abusive homes, which meant that many opted instead to live on the streets. Those who were already homeless prior to the pandemic found themselves competing with more people for fewer spaces in homeless shelters and struggled to find shelters that would protect them from harassment or abuse.
All of these difficulties for LGBTQ+ communities existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The need for the Equality Act to finally become the law of the land has never been greater.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only further underscored the need to ensure all Americans get what they need to stay healthy and safe as they continue contributing to our economy. Laws on the books should protect all Americans in every aspect of society, including LGBTQ+ individuals.
So, now, as we reflect on this summer’s Pride celebrations, I am renewing my efforts to ensure the Equality Act finally becomes federal law. While Connecticut has some of the strongest laws in the nation to protect the LGBTQ+ community and serves as an example for states across the country, we have waited long enough for action at the federal level. Our LGBTQ+ communities, neighbors, family members, and friends deserve better. Now is the time to get this done and ensure they can get the life-saving healthcare, accommodations, and equal treatment that they so desperately deserve.
By Rosa DeLauro
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro serves as Chair of the House Appropriations Committee and the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee. She represents Connecticut’s Third Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives.