It’s time for Pa. budget to reflect LGBTQ+ priorities

LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus members pen open letter to the governor, state Senate and House leadership, highlighting health care, housing, and education needs

HARRISBURG, June 9 – The Pennsylvania LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, a bipartisan and bicameral caucus made up of members of the General Assembly who advocate for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer residents, has released an open letter to Gov. Tom Wolf, and state Senate and House leadership, urging them to include funding for LGBTQ+ communities in this year’s state budget.

“Each year we negotiate a budget that should support all Pennsylvanians and ensure that the commonwealth is inclusive and competitive place to live and work,” said Rep. Brian Sims, Caucus co-chair.

“Unfortunately, our budget has historically excluded LGBTQ+ communities in Pennsylvania and it’s time that we prioritized and empowered the people, places and organizations that make Pennsylvania the diverse and vibrant place that it is.”

Highlighting critical issues in health care, housing and education that LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians have to endure, lawmakers emphasized the need for immediate action.

“I knew when I became co-chair of the LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus this year that although the wind may be at our back, there is a fight to be had to enact even the most basic protections in Pennsylvania for our LGBTQ+ family,” said Sen. Katie Muth, Caucus chair.  

“Spending priorities should align with equitable policy that actually improves the lives and well-being of our queer communities. Make no mistake, sexual minorities in Pennsylvania face a heavier burden, including teenagers who are kicked out of their homes because of who they are, black transgender women being murdered at alarming rates, hate crimes rising across the board, legal evictions from apartments, job discrimination, and so much more.”

According to recent national surveys, a staggering 56% of LGBTQ+ people have reportedly experienced some sort of health care discrimination and between 20% and 45% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+. Even more alarmingly, about 40% of LGBTQ respondents to a survey by The Trevor Project reported seriously considering attempting suicide in the past 12 months, and more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth have considered the same.

“There is hope, but much like the last few decades, this community has had to fight and claw for everything they deserve, and we will not stop now. Together we can make Pennsylvania a supportive, warm, and inclusive place to thrive. We will never give up on our shared values,” Muth said.

Emphasizing disparities in socioeconomic conditions, mental health, housing access and school education, the letter prioritized specific actions to uplift LGBTQ+ youth and adults. Specifically, for example, the letter calls for housing support, funding for health programs, inclusivity training, school programming, and more.

“Our budget is a reflection of our values and priorities, and it’s past time for it to align with our support for LGBTQ+ people. These proposals will get support to those who need it, promote equity and strengthen this commonwealth,” said Rep. Dan Frankel, Caucus co-chair.

The full letter is available online.