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In today’s policy world digital media use has exploded with the accessibility of data. In this column, we discuss three new reports that are available electronically which explore the challenges facing LGBT communities and the governments that serve them. As justice, poverty, social equity, and safety have become inherently governmental issues, the confluence of data for this population and their relevance for public administration is emerging. For public managers, it is important to keep an eye on the many challenges that continue to face LGBT people even after the Supreme Court ruling in June. Some of these challenges, like poverty, reflect pervasive societal problems that accelerated during the last recession. Others, such as disproportionate levels of violence toward LGBT-of-color are clear signs that there is much more left to accomplish on the road to social justice and equality for everyone.
In February, Gallup released the results of a national survey of the LGBT population. In June, The National Coalition of Anti-Violence (NCAVP) Programs released its updated report, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-Affected Hate Violence in 2012-2013. Also in June, The Williams Institute of the University of California Los Angles School of Law released its report, New Patterns of Poverty in the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Community.
These reports describe critical issues facing LGBT communities, as well as suggest policies for state and local governments. The three reports are “must reads” for public administrators who are looking to gain further insight into making their communities safer, more equitable and less socially and economically restrictive for all citizens.
LGBT Communities in the United States
Urban metropolitan areas remain, not surprisingly, population centers for LGBT Americans. However, the 2000 Census and recent estimates by Gallup and the Williams Institute, suggest that 99 percent of U.S. counties have LGBT residents. You can find the estimate of your state’s LGBT population in a recently published report by Gallup. The Gallup study estimates that approximately 3.5 percent of Americans identify as LGBT, with all states falling within two percentage points of this average. The reports observe that these statistics are likely under-estimated due to participants’ unwillingness to report LGBT identity. Further, in developing inclusive and protective policies for LGBT residents, it is important to note that these reports identified that LGBT people are often life-long community residents.
The Anti-LGBTQ Hate Violence Problem
The 2013 NCAVP report provides a comprehensive and sobering picture of the challenges LGBTQ individuals face in the emerging era of marriage equality. The report suggests that bias and violence are part of the everyday lives of many LGBTQ people. In 2012, 25 anti-LGBTQ and HIV-affected homicides were reported. The number was 16.7 percent lower than in 2011 (remember that all of these data are likely to be a fraction of the actual numbers). In fact, the number of anti-LGBTQ and anti-HIV affected homicides for 2012 was the fourth highest on record. The overwhelming majority of victims of anti-LGBTQ and HIV-affected homicides were people-of-color, half (50%) of all victims were Black/African-American and nearly a fifth (19.2%) were Latino/a. Half of homicide victims were transgender and all of these identified as transgender women. Nearly four in ten victims (38.5%) were gay-identified men. These data suggest that transgender people-of-color and gay men-of-color are at significantly higher risk for attack and for being killed by their assailants.
The authors suggest that policy makers continue to develop and adopt policies that promote safety for LGBT people including policies that facilitate better capture of hate violence incidents, particularly for LGBT-of-color. Additionally, administrators have the opportunity to develop policies that facilitate better LGBT violence survivors’ access to law enforcement (which often means increasing first responders and service providers’ knowledge and competency in serving LGBTQ and HIV-affected residents) You can find this information at http://www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights and http://www.civilrights.org/lgbt/.
Same Sex Couples and Poverty
Economist M.V. Lee Badget commented that legalizing gay marriage was likely to create “big differences for same-sex couples’ financial well-being” including reductions in health insurance cost, reduced tax burdens and greater spending power that would be used to fuel a wedding boom. However, the Williams Institute suggests that same-sex couples actually face greater vulnerability to poverty than different-sex couples. The report suggests that LGBT people, whether they were single or living in couples, were more likely to live in poverty than single non-LGBT or different-sex couples. Also, bisexual adults regardless of relationship status have higher poverty rates than heterosexual, lesbian or gay adults.
Exploring Data, Enacting Policies
The presence of state-level, non-discrimination policies is likely to play a critical role in poverty level differences. The authors note that states with non-discrimination laws have a lower likelihood of poverty for all types of couples. While states that do not have non-discrimination laws have higher poverty rates for all types of couples except male same-sex couples. This has been an historic year for LGBT communities. Nonetheless, these reports remind public administrators of the challenges that our LGBT citizen still face. Take a moment to review them. Share them with colleagues and local community groups that are committed to building better communities for all citizens. For a better understanding of the issues facing citizens in your community, check out http://www.itgetsbetter.org/. For assistance with exploring legal and policy based issues related to this topic, check out http://www.lambdalegal.org/ and http://www.ngltf.org/our_work/public_policy. Given the active presence of LGBT in digital media, public managers may wish to coordinate efforts with community based LGBT partners via social media and websites. Transparency in policy development will enable stakeholders from all backgrounds help to create safer, inclusive and equitable communities.
Authors: Christopher J. Godfrey, Ph.D. Director, Web 2.0 Interdisciplinary Informatics Institute Department of Psychology, Pace University; Hillary J. Knepper, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Public Administration, Pace University; Email Contact: [email protected]