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Trump claims win with tax reform, but LGBT advocates say they lose

Projected growth not enough to cover plan’s costs

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restoring democracy, gay news, Washington Blade

President Trump may win with tax reform, but LGBT advocates say they lose. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

President Trump is touting the Republican tax reform plan as his first legislative win as Congress sends the legislation to his desk, but LGBT rights supporters are warning about expected negative impacts of the measure — especially the end to the individual mandate in Obamacare.

In a statement Wednesday after final congressional approval of the bill, Trump said he made good on his promise for “a big, beautiful tax cut for Christmas.”

“Unemployment continues to fall, the stock market is at a record high, and wages will soon be on the rise,” Trump said. “By cutting taxes and reforming the broken system, we are now pouring rocket fuel into the engine of our economy. America is back to winning again, and we’re growing like never before. There is a great spirit of optimism sweeping across our land. Americans can once again rest assured that our brightest days are still to come.”

That optimism wasn’t shared by LGBT rights supporters, advocates against HIV/AIDS and deficit hawks who say the projected 0.8 percent growth expected as a result of the bill isn’t enough to pay for its costs.

Laura Durso, vice president of LGBT research and communications for the Center for American Progress, said the package “will have massively negative implications for LGBTQ people” especially as a result of ending the individual mandate for health care.

“Eliminating the individual mandate means that insurance premiums will go up, putting coverage out of reach for those with lower incomes,” Durso said. “LGB people are also less likely to have coverage through their spouse or partner, compared to non-LGB people, and so the stability of the individual market is incredibly important for our community.”

According to the Congressional Budget Office, repeal of the individual mandate in Obamacare would result in a decrease of the number of people with health insurance by 4 million in 2019 and 13 million in 2027. Additionally, CBO predicts average premiums in the non-group health insurance exchanges would rise by about 10 percent in most years of the upcoming decade.

Doug Wirth, CEO of the New York-based health care non-profit Amida Care, said people with HIV/AIDS would be among those to face consequences as a result of the tax package.

“The tax reform bill is just another way to strip away health care access from millions of Americans in order to cut taxes for the wealthy,” Wirth said. “Paying for this massive transfer of funds by cutting safety net programs will hurt those most in need, like the 74 million hard-working Americans, including veterans, women, seniors, and people with chronic conditions like HIV and diabetes, who count on Medicaid for health insurance. We are deeply troubled by the repeal of the individual mandate, which will lead to sky-high premiums.”

Wirth said components of the bill that decrease deductions for medical expenses and remove tax exemptions helping hospitals and nonprofit organization would have a negative impact — but eliminating the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act would be particularly bad.

“By ensuring that healthy people join the insurance pool, the mandate is essential to keeping health care affordable for everyone, and particularly those who depend on insurance the most, such as people with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses,” Wirth said. “Without the mandate, health care premiums will skyrocket and an estimated 13 million people will lose coverage.”

The estimated price tag for these tax reductions varies from analyst to analyst, and each of the analysts has differing takes depending on the economic growth as result of tax cuts in the legislation. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has projected the package would add $1.5 trillion to the deficit over the course of 10 years, or as much as $2.2 trillion. As a result, the national debt — which is now $20.6 trillion — would double by 2027.

David Stacy, government affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign, predicted in a statement federal programs assisting LGBT people would face cuts in the future to pay the cost of the tax legislation.

“If the Trump-Pence tax scam becomes law, programs crucial to the LGBTQ community like Medicare, Medicaid, global HIV & AIDS programs, and the Ryan White Care Act will surely face future efforts to cut their benefits,” Stacy said. “This is a reckless and desperate attempt to score a legislative victory at the expense of everyday Americans.”

Cuts to Medicaid could be harmful for people with HIV/AIDS. An estimated 40 percent of people with HIV/AIDS depend on the program for health care.

The tax reform package also lowers the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, doubles the standard deduction for individuals and families, doubles the child tax-credit and increases the threshold for payments under the estate tax from $5.5 million to $11.2 million.

In contrast to the change to the corporate tax, which is permanent, the tax cuts for individuals and families will expire in 2025 if Congress doesn’t act to reauthorize them.

Conservative groups — regardless of their position on LGBT rights — said those cuts were positive aspects of the legislation that outweigh any negative consequences.

Gregory Angelo, president of Log Cabin Republicans, said components of the tax reform plan that eliminate the estate tax and the individual mandate in Obamacare “are obviously welcome news.”

“Not a single person will lose healthcare as a result of this legislation; people are simply not coerced by the government to buy a product they don’t want without fear of paying a mandatory penalty,” Angelo said. “And the pernicious tax that gave Edith Windsor standing in court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act has now been severely curtailed. That’s most definitely a good thing.”

Ralph Reed, chair of the anti-LGBT Faith & Freedom Coalition, said in a statement the tax reform package “is pro-child, pro-jobs, pro-middle-class, and pro-family.”

“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act doubles the child tax credit to $2,000 per child, doubles the standard deduction for individuals and married couples, and repeals the repressive Obamacare mandate to begin full dismantling of Obamacare,” Reed said. “President Trump and Congressional Republicans have now delivered for the American people a simpler and fairer tax code that protects and supports families and children, and will increase wages, promote job creation, and make American businesses more competitive.”

The tax reform package also curtails the amount taxpayers can deduct for state and local income tax, sales tax, and property taxes to $10,000. The deduction would have been eliminated entirely if not for an amendment inserted by Rep. Susan Collins (R-Maine).

The cap of that deduction explains why many “blue” state Republicans in the U.S. House, including those in California, New Jersey and New York, were among the 12 Republicans who voted against the bill. With high state taxes and property values in those states, people living there may face a tax increase, not decrease, as a result of tax reform.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), who’s gay and a co-chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, cited the issue of the property tax in a statement explaining his “no” vote on the bill.

“Most of the Republicans from New York broke with their own party and voted no, so I couldn’t possibly support it,” Maloney said. “I mean, it raises property taxes for us and 83 percent of the benefits go to the richest 1 percent, so it obviously won’t help the Hudson Valley families who need relief. But it will explode our deficit, weaken Medicare, and undermine our efforts to build infrastructure and invest in education.”

Durso also cited the reduced deduction on state and property taxes as an LGBT issue on the basis that “if an LGBTQ person decided to live in places that have stronger non-discrimination protections, typically more progressive states and cities, they will now be penalized for living in a safer community.”

The White House hasn’t yet announced when Trump will sign the bill, although he’ll certainly pen his name to the legislation. Trump made tax reform a legislative priority and most observers say he needs a win to bolster his standing among the GOP base.

Durso said the ultimate cost of the tax reform package won’t be realized until the long-term when the effects are seen.

“Lower income families, including LGBTQ people who are more vulnerable to poverty than their peers, will see only modest gains in the near future but many will see their taxes actually rise by 2027,” Durso said. “Even worse, this bill will trigger automatic spending cuts and members of Congress have already stated their intention to eviscerate programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security that LGBTQ people rely on for the security of their families. This bill will harm millions of people and the LGBTQ community will undoubtedly feel the pain that President Trump and congressional Republicans have caused.”

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65 Comments

65 Comments

  1. Mark Hatchett

    December 21, 2017 at 8:40 am

    I see Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have been handing out talking points again.

    • lnm3921

      December 23, 2017 at 12:09 am

      Versus you, the Fake POTUS, your fellow CONs and the nag you came riding on you mean?! Miss Milo would be the nag you want to ride!

  2. Kemwit Tall Tree

    December 21, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    The “leadership” of the gay community is so completely out of touch with a huge portion of the gay population it’s hilarious! When the “Loonie Left” wants to make a point, it can always rely on so-called gay advocacy organizations to make a spectacle of themselves!

    • lnm3921

      December 23, 2017 at 12:09 am

      Where are you statistics that backup the contention that the “leadership” is out of touch with a “HUGE” portion of the gay population? Proof the constipated CON right-wing within the gay community is as large as you say it is.

      You’re just blowing gas out your rear-end with that BS! If you don’t like the gay movement, no one said they need you to be part of it! Good riddance to your nasty swishing big behind! Go twerk it at the next values summit and see where it gets you!

      • Kemwit Tall Tree

        December 23, 2017 at 6:57 am

        We’re going to take over the gay movement! All of you AGING lefties are fading away!

        • lnm3921

          December 23, 2017 at 2:02 pm

          Keep dreaming! You’re just alot of noise like Trump who will go down in flames someday just like Miss Milo did and just like Steve Bannon did! You’ll all get your comeuppance!

          • Kemwit Tall Tree

            December 25, 2017 at 8:24 pm

            INM – you live in the past, 50 years ago! Times changed but you’re still a regular bar fly, just with lots of wrinkles!

          • lnm3921

            December 25, 2017 at 9:26 pm

            You’re looking at your face not mine for wrinkles like on trump!

            I don’t have your wide butt and gut like your fake potus either!

            Obviously since the blade is liberal as the leadership you just live in bitter denial!

          • DoctorWhom

            December 26, 2017 at 11:07 am

            “If it weren’t for people who stood up to government intrusion in their lives, there wouldn’t be a GLBT movement!”
            FTFY. You admit as much in the next paragraph.

          • lnm3921

            December 26, 2017 at 5:41 pm

            We need laws that recognize and uphold our rights. That includes marriage rights, employment rights and housing rights. All come from the government not your libertarian BS!

            The GOP does nothing but intrude in our lives!

          • Kemwit Tall Tree

            December 27, 2017 at 6:39 pm

            You go on about Democrat wins in New Jersey and Virginia? Oh yes, that so impressive! LOL Democrats winning in blue states…that is really something!

          • lnm3921

            December 27, 2017 at 7:41 pm

            the point is trump had no power in swaying the electorate despite telling voters what to do! So much for the influence you claim he has over voters!

            Oh yes, Alabama’s Democratic win was impressive and much sweeter knowing that it humiliated the fake potus and bannon! That you kept silent on! Knowing it proved you an idiot…..priceless!

          • BigGaySteve

            December 29, 2017 at 5:56 pm

            Even the CUCKed GOP establishment fought against Moore, because he put American interests before Israel. Moore had both parties and the press against him and still came within the margin for voter fraud.

          • lnm3921

            December 29, 2017 at 6:17 pm

            Even your GOP certified there is no voter fraud! Moore lost in a very red state despite trump support and Brannon’s dirty money! Trump’s influence didn’t matter! He’s going down too!

        • BruceMajors4DC

          December 25, 2017 at 8:19 pm

          It’s mind is already dead, as he proves here:

          • Kemwit Tall Tree

            December 25, 2017 at 8:20 pm

            LOL…..senility is so sad! Inm is even sadder!

          • lnm3921

            December 25, 2017 at 9:27 pm

            You delusions are what is sad! Sucks to be you!

          • Kemwit Tall Tree

            December 27, 2017 at 6:37 pm

            Inm – your breath smells like farts!

          • lnm3921

            December 27, 2017 at 7:36 pm

            Dimwit you are a loud fart that repeats without end!

          • lnm3921

            December 25, 2017 at 9:27 pm

            Take your medication before you hurt yourself again!

      • Kemwit Tall Tree

        December 23, 2017 at 8:32 am

        BTW – it’s insane lefties like you who are driving so many people to the right wing! So keep up the good work!

        Newest convert is the former CEO of NPR – Ken Stern! Check him out on Youtube trashing the Left with Dave Rubin (another former Lefty and a gay man).

        • lnm3921

          December 23, 2017 at 2:01 pm

          Really is that why people keep leaving the GOP in disgust declaring themselves Independents?

          You’re Fake POTUS really helps, too! You’re so delusional!

          • Kemwit Tall Tree

            December 27, 2017 at 6:36 pm

            I’m not a republican and never been my entire life! I was a Democrat until last near, now an Independent. There is more to politics than your outdated binary approach.

      • Count Dracula

        December 24, 2017 at 10:51 pm

        Take the di€k out of your azz and get a job. Use your medical benefits like normal people do

        • lnm3921

          December 25, 2017 at 6:07 pm

          I have a job! What’s yours, a dead-end paying minimum wage with no benefits courtesy of the fake potus?

          What’s in someone’s azz is none of your business. Why not pull your head out of yours?!

          There is nothing normal about you! You’re a side show!

          • BruceMajors4DC

            December 25, 2017 at 8:18 pm

            You have a “job” shuffling papers and leeching off taxpayers as a ‘crat.

          • lnm3921

            December 25, 2017 at 9:06 pm

            It’s you leeching off taxpayers with trump and the GOP tax scam!

      • Celia

        December 25, 2017 at 6:25 am

        Google is paying 97$ per hour,with weekly payouts.You can also avail this.
        On tuesday I got a great New Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $11752 this last four weeks..with-out any doubt it’s the most-comfortable job I have ever done .. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
        !da252d:
        ➽➽
        ➽➽;➽➽ http://GoogleTeamOfficeUpdateWorkFromHome/more/cash ★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫:::::!da252luuuuss

      • Celia

        December 25, 2017 at 6:25 am

        Google is paying 97$ per hour,with weekly payouts.You can also avail this.
        On tuesday I got a great New Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $11752 this last four weeks..with-out any doubt it’s the most-comfortable job I have ever done .. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
        !da253d:
        ➽➽
        ➽➽;➽➽ http://GoogleDailyConsumerOfficeJournalsJobsReport1/easy/jobs ★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫:::::!da253luuuuu

      • BruceMajors4DC

        December 25, 2017 at 8:17 pm

        God you must be hungry, what with him blowing gas out his rear end.

        • lnm3921

          December 25, 2017 at 9:07 pm

          You’re the gas that’s blown out!

      • BigGaySteve

        December 29, 2017 at 5:51 pm

        There are gays in the uncharted lands between NYC and San Fran. Many of them are even gun owners. The gay gun group Pink Pistols increased in size by 400% in the month after PULSE
        https://gabfiles.blob.core.windows.net/image/5a46c7304691b.jpeg

    • BruceMajors4DC

      December 25, 2017 at 8:17 pm

      Example to follow:

      • lnm3921

        December 25, 2017 at 9:30 pm

        Says the loser wannabe mayor of d.c.! No one wanted your lunacy and many of your own wouldn’t back you as an avowed homosexual!

        You’re only fit to clean toilets!

        • Kemwit Tall Tree

          December 27, 2017 at 6:35 pm

          At least he wasn’t a closet case and running for mayor like some of our other DC politicians!

          • lnm3921

            December 27, 2017 at 7:16 pm

            Obviously being out didn’t help him with conservatives and that you can count on if nothing else!

  3. Thisoldspouse

    December 22, 2017 at 11:16 am

    They lose because they can’t lay claim to other people’s money? Typical.

    Finance your own lifestyle.

    • lnm3921

      December 23, 2017 at 12:12 am

      That’s what liberals have be saying to the 1.0%. Selfish and rotten scoundrels!

      • Thisoldspouse

        December 23, 2017 at 5:22 pm

        ??? Your silly post makes no sense.

        • lnm3921

          December 24, 2017 at 12:00 am

          Let me explain it since you live in your own world. The tax cut favors the 1.0% who don’t need it so the tax payer is financing their selfish lifestyle.

          They already make more than most people but spend it all on so let them finance their own lifestyle! That include the fake POTUS!

          • Kemwit Tall Tree

            December 25, 2017 at 8:30 pm

            INM – You have Mad Cow Disease? I thought you had verbal diarrhea!

          • lnm3921

            December 25, 2017 at 9:15 pm

            Dimwit You and your fake potus are IBS with constipation!

          • Kemwit Tall Tree

            December 27, 2017 at 6:43 pm

            Oh! There goes another squirt right out of your mouth! Usually the squirts go the other way…like everytime the sailors come to town! LOL

          • lnm3921

            December 27, 2017 at 7:30 pm

            Squirt defines your stature in life!

            All you’re telling me is that I would be seen as hot and thus popular with military men! What most men would want!

            Too bad for you that they would only see a plus size dowdy wallflower in you! You’re too much of a woman!

          • Thisoldspouse

            December 26, 2017 at 2:30 pm

            Oh, so you’re the arbiter of “who needs it.” LOL!!!! You only bolster conservative arguments by your spew.

          • lnm3921

            December 26, 2017 at 2:40 pm

            Hardly since most people believe it’s a scam that favors the rich and corporations! Your right wing vomit needs to be flushed!

            Better the masses decide than the 1%. History shows when the do we ave revolutions that fix the problem like in France and Russia!

          • BigGaySteve

            December 29, 2017 at 6:06 pm

            Both parties favor the 1%. That’s why when the Koch Bros switched support to Hillary over TRUMP, it was obvious the parasite class on both sides feared him.

        • BruceMajors4DC

          December 25, 2017 at 8:16 pm

          He’s a regular troll here. And a victim of mad cow disease from some prions he swallowed in a steam room.

          • lnm3921

            December 25, 2017 at 9:13 pm

            You look like a troll and are a mad cow disease! Find a right-wing rag to pollute!

  4. DoctorWhom

    December 22, 2017 at 11:42 am

    Apparently, the party line is that we are especially in need of handouts and that tax cuts could never benefit us. I’m sure that somehow, it’s those of us who disagree who suffer from self-loathing and internalized homophobia.

    • lnm3921

      December 23, 2017 at 12:11 am

      Tax benefits under the Fake POTUS and the GOP as a huge scam for the rich and corporations on the back of the middle class and poor? What’s the average tax savings for the middle class? $1K or $2K per year? That’s a grocery bill per week. Who are you kidding?

      • BruceMajors4DC

        December 25, 2017 at 8:15 pm

        So it will pay for the $12 a month birth control cost, huh?

        • lnm3921

          December 25, 2017 at 9:11 pm

          Too bad your parents didn’t get it for that!

      • Kemwit Tall Tree

        December 25, 2017 at 8:29 pm

        I’ll take an extra $2,000 a year! My next trip to Tel Aviv Gay Pride! Then on to the capital of Israel, Jerusalem!

        Better the $$ in my pocket than giving free education to illegal aliens!

        • lnm3921

          December 25, 2017 at 9:10 pm

          A trip to Israel costs a lot more than $2k! Obviously you don’t get out much!

          Naturally you use the excuse of illegals to rip off the poor! A lot of low income Americans could use it to survive instead of financing the lifestyle of the selfish!

          • Kemwit Tall Tree

            December 27, 2017 at 6:41 pm

            My husband and I are getting back a lot more than $2,000. We’re in a tax bracket a turd like you can only dream of in the back seat of your Chevy sedan!

          • lnm3921

            December 27, 2017 at 7:19 pm

            Again you think you can define me but NEVER can!! You’re such a pathetic butt wipe!

            All you are good at is being an ugly plus-size woman!

          • Kemwit Tall Tree

            December 27, 2017 at 7:24 pm

            You’re easy to define: Over the hill Trixie Trampp that needs diapers! Bwaaaaa!

          • lnm3921

            December 27, 2017 at 8:16 pm

            Says the trump chump who trolls for tricky trump! Over the hill I’ll NEVEr be! Age cannot wither me nor custom stale my infinity variety! You wouldn’t understand as you were stale shortly after birth and continue to develop mold each day of your miserable existence!

            The fake potus is over the hill and ready for the glue factory!

      • DoctorWhom

        December 26, 2017 at 11:04 am

        Remember when a strategist for Fake POTUS 45 had the nerve to send out this?

        “When President Trump asked you to speak out on the payroll tax cut, you jumped into action. Thousands of individuals from across the country wrote in to say what $40 with each paycheck means to their families.

        “And it worked.”
        Oops, my autocorrect somehow changed “Obama” to “Trump” in that.

        • lnm3921

          December 26, 2017 at 12:06 pm

          It means paying for a grocery bill or filling up on gas Big deal! Give me $2k more a month instead of to the rich then that is something!

        • lnm3921

          December 27, 2017 at 8:27 am

          Remember when trump told thousands to vote for the republican in Virginia then Alabama? Oops! The republican lost!

          Remember when trump said he knew more about terrorism than all the us generals, fbi and cia? Oops! Five attacks later within a short amount of time and trump lied!

          Your tax reform passed simply because your biggest donors threatened the GOP leadership with withholding financial support! Nothing more but dems will be proven right on it being a scam, they will be a majority again and will fix the damage by giving the right people a tax cut instead of the 1% and corporations!

          You’re smug today and crawling into your corner in a fetal position sucking your thumb in the future. Not an “if” but a “when”!

          Your diagnosis is pure quackery!

    • BigGaySteve

      December 29, 2017 at 6:03 pm

      They could at least be honest and say “If you purposely got AIDS to lay about on SS Disability the tax reform is bad for you” unlike those with productive private sector jobs

  5. BruceMajors4DC

    December 25, 2017 at 8:13 pm

    The same tired old flaks, most of them retreads from the Hillary campaign, regurgitating stale talking points. Tax reform will hurt the “LGBT community” insofar as gays have moved to high tax Blue States, who are about to be stripped of the federal subsidy of allowing Blue State state and local governments to tax non-residents in Red States, by having Blue State local taxes be a federal tax deduction. The Trump reform brilliantly ends the loophole for high income Blue State Democrat donors. This is the real reason all these prostitutes are wailing: their johns are being taxed when they visit the brothel.

    • lnm3921

      December 25, 2017 at 9:19 pm

      The blue states would be high tax since the GOP tax scam eliminates or significantly reduces the tax deductions the can take!

      Eventually dems will be in power again and we will have a dem potus who like you focused on eliminating Obamacare will be focused on eliminating your tax scam for the rich and corporations! Payback will be sweet! Not an if but a when event!

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homepage news

Top 10 Blade news stories by web traffic

COVID breakthroughs, Equality Act, and anti-trans attacks

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Elliot Page created excitement by posting his first photo in swim trunks back in May.

Each year our staff gathers in late December to review the highest trafficked stories of the year and there’s more than a little bit of competitive spirit as we review the results. Here are the top 10 stories by web traffic at  HYPERLINK “http://washingtonblade.com”washingtonblade.com for 2021.

#10: Mark Glaze, gun reform advocate, dies at 51

The sad, tragic story of Glaze’s death captivated readers in November. 

#9: COVID breakthrough infections strike summer tourists visiting Provincetown

This one went viral in July after a COVID outbreak was blamed on gay tourists.

#8: Thank you, Kordell Stewart, for thoughtful response to ‘the rumor’

This opinion piece thanked the former NFL quarterback for writing a personal essay addressing gay rumors. 

#7: Elliot Page tweets; trans bb’s first swim trunks #transjoy #transisbeautiful

The actor created excitement by posting his first photo in swim trunks back in May.

#6: Romney declares opposition to LGBTQ Equality Act

Mitt Romney disappointed activists with his announcement; the Equality Act passed the House but never saw a vote in the Senate.

#5: White House warns state legislatures that passing anti-trans bills is illegal

The year 2021 saw a disturbing trend of GOP-led legislatures attacking trans people.

#4: Lincoln Project’s avowed ignorance of Weaver texts undercut by leaked communications

The Lincoln Project’s leaders, amid a scandal of co-founder John Weaver soliciting sexual favors from young men, have asserted they were unaware of his indiscretions until the Blade obtained electronic communications that called that claim into question.

#3: FOX 5’s McCoy suspended over offensive Tweet

Blake McCoy tweeted that obese people shouldn’t get priority for the COVID vaccine. 

#2: Transgender USAF veteran trapped in Taliban takeover of Kabul

Among the Americans trapped in the suburban areas of Kabul under Taliban control was a transgender government contractor for the U.S. State Department and former U.S. Air Force Sergeant. She was later safely evacuated.

#1: Amid coup chaos, Trump quietly erases LGBTQ protections in adoption, health services

And our most popular story of 2021 was about the Trump administration nixing regulations barring federal grantees in the Department of Health & Human Services from discriminating against LGBTQ people, including in adoption services.

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CDC still falling short on LGBTQ data collection for COVID patients: expert

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COVID-19 vaccine, gay news, Washington Blade
The CDC is still not issuing guidance to states on LGBTQ data collection among COVID patients.

Despite requests since the start of the COVID pandemic for the U.S. government to enhance data collection for patients who are LGBTQ, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention is still falling short on issuing nationwide guidance to states on the issue, a leading expert health on the issue told the Blade.

With a renewed focus on COVID infections reaching new heights just before the start of the holidays amid the emergence of Omicron, the absence of any LGBTQ data collection — now across both the Trump and Biden administrations — remains a sore point for health experts who say that information could be used for public outreach.

Sean Cahill, director of Health Policy Research at the Boston-based Fenway Institute, said Wednesday major federal entities and hospitals have been collecting data on whether patients identify as LGBTQ for years — such as the National Health & Nutrition Examination Survey, which has been collecting sexual orientation data since the 1990s — but the CDC hasn’t duplicated that effort for COVID even though the pandemic has been underway for two years.

“It’s not like this is a new idea,” Cahill said. “But for some reason, the pandemic hit, and all of a sudden, we realize how little systematic data we were collecting in our health system. And it’s a real problem because we’re two years into the pandemic almost, and we still don’t know how it’s affecting this vulnerable population that experiences health disparities in other areas.”

The Blade was among the first outlets to report on the lack of efforts by the states to collect data on whether a COVID patient identifies as LGBTQ, reporting in April 2020 on the absence of data even in places with influential LGBTQ communities. The CDC hasn’t responded to the Blade’s requests for nearly two years on why it doesn’t instruct states to collect this data, nor did it respond this week to a request for comment on this article.

Cahill, who has published articles in the American Journal of Public Health on the importance of LGBTQ data collection and reporting in COVID-19 testing, care, and vaccination — said he’s been making the case to the CDC to issue guidance to states on whether COVID patients identify as LGBTQ since June 2020.

Among those efforts, he said, were to include two comments he delivered to the Biden COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force in spring 2021, a letter a coalition of groups sent to the Association of State & Territorial Health Officers asking for states to collect and report SOGI in COVID in December 2020 as well as letters to HHS leadership and congressional leadership in spring and summer 2020 asking for them to take steps to encourage or require SOGI data collection in COVID.

Asked what CDC officials had to say in response when he brought this issue to their attention, Cahill said, “They listen, but they don’t really tell me anything.”

“We’ve been making that case, and to date, as of December 22, 2021, they have not issued guidance, they have not changed the case report form. I hope that they’re in the process of doing that, and maybe we’ll be pleasantly surprised in January, and they’ll come up with something…I really hope that’s true, but right now they’re not doing anything to promote SOGI data collection and reporting in surveillance data.”

Cahill, in an email to the Blade after the initial publication of this article, clarified CDC has indicated guidance on LGBTQ data collection for COVID patients may come in the near future.

“HHS leaders told us this fall that CDC is working on an initiative to expand SOGI data collection,” Cahill said. “We are hopeful that we will see guidance early in 2022. Key people at CDC, including Director Walensky, understand the importance of SOGI data collection given their long history of working on HIV prevention.”

In other issues related to LGBTQ data collection, there has been a history of states resisting federal mandates. The Trump administration, for example, rescinded guidance calling on states to collect information on whether foster youth identified as LGBTQ after complaints from states on the Obama-era process, much to the consternation of LGBTQ advocates who said the data was helpful.

The White House COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force has at least recognized the potential for enhancing LGBTQ data collection efforts. Last month, it published an implementation plan, calling for “an equity-centered approach to data collection, including sufficient funding to collect data for groups that are often left out of data collection (e.g….LGBTQIA+ people).”

The plan also calls for “fund[ing] activities to improve data collection…including tracking COVID-19 related outcomes for people of color and other underserved populations,” and specifically calls for the collection of LGBTQ data.

The importance of collecting LGBTQ data, Cahill said, is based on its potential use in public outreach, including efforts to recognize disparities in health population and to create messaging for outreach, including for populations that may be reluctant to take the vaccine.

“If we see a disparity, we can say: Why is that?” Cahill said. “We could do focus groups of the population — try to understand and then what kind of messages would reassure you and make you feel comfortable getting a vaccine, and we could push those messages out through public education campaigns led by state local health departments led by the federal government.”

The LGBTQ data, Cahill said, could be broken down further to determine if racial and ethnic disparities exist within the LGBTQ population, or whether LGBTQ people are likely to suffer from the disease in certain regions, such as the South.

“We have data showing that lesbian or bisexual women, and transgender people are less likely to be in preventive regular routine care for their health,” Cahill said. “And so if that’s true, there’s a good chance that they’re less likely to know where to get a vaccine, to have a medical professional they trust to talk to about it today.”

Among the leaders who are supportive, Cahill said, is Rachel Levine, assistant secretary for health and the first openly transgender person confirmed by the U.S. Senate for a presidential appointment. Cahill said he raised the issue with her along with other officials at the Department of Health & Human Services three times in the last year.

In her previous role as Pennsylvania secretary of health, Levine led the way and made her state the first in the nation to set up an LGBTQ data collection system for COVID patients.

“So she definitely gets it, and I know she’s supportive of it, but we really need the CDC to act,” Cahill said.

Although the federal government has remained intransigent in taking action, Cahill said the situation has improved among states and counted five states — California, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Nevada and Oregon — in addition to D.C. as among those that have elected to collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity of COVID patients.

However, Cahill said even those data collection efforts are falling short because those jurisdictions have merely been public about collecting the data, but haven’t reported back anything yet.

“Only California has reported data publicly, and the data that they’re reporting is really just the completeness of the data,” Cahill said. “They’re not reporting the data itself…And they’re also just asking people who tests positive. So, if somebody says positive COVID in California, a contact tracer follows up with that individual and asks them a battery of questions, and among the questions that are asked are SOGI questions.”

As a result of these efforts, Cahill said, California has data on the LGBTQ status of COVID patients, but the data is overwhelmingly more complete for the gender identity of these patients rather than their sexual orientation. As of May 2021, California reported that they had sexual orientation data for 9.5 percent of individuals who had died from COVID and 16 percent of people who tested positive, but for gender identity, the data were 99.5 percent.

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Equality Act, contorted as a danger by anti-LGBTQ forces, is all but dead

No political willpower to force vote or reach a compromise

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Despite having President Biden in the White House and Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress, efforts to update federal civil rights laws to strengthen the prohibition on discrimination against LGBTQ people by passing the Equality Act are all but dead as opponents of the measure have contorted it beyond recognition.

Political willpower is lacking to find a compromise that would be acceptable to enough Republican senators to end a filibuster on the bill — a tall order in any event — nor is there the willpower to force a vote on the Equality Act as opponents stoke fears about transgender kids in sports and not even unanimity in the Democratic caucus in favor of the bill is present, stakeholders who spoke to the Blade on condition of anonymity said.

In fact, there are no imminent plans to hold a vote on the legislation even though Pride month is days away, which would be an opportune time for Congress to demonstrate solidarity with the LGBTQ community by holding a vote on the legislation.

If the Equality Act were to come up for a Senate vote in the next month, it would not have the support to pass. Continued assurances that bipartisan talks are continuing on the legislation have yielded no evidence of additional support, let alone the 10 Republicans needed to end a filibuster.

“I haven’t really heard an update either way, which is usually not good,” one Democratic insider said. “My understanding is that our side was entrenched in a no-compromise mindset and with [Sen. Joe] Manchin saying he didn’t like the bill, it doomed it this Congress. And the bullying of hundreds of trans athletes derailed our message and our arguments of why it was broadly needed.”

The only thing keeping the final nail from being hammered into the Equality Act’s coffin is the unwillingness of its supporters to admit defeat. Other stakeholders who spoke to the Blade continued to assert bipartisan talks are ongoing, strongly pushing back on any conclusion the legislation is dead.

Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the Equality Act is “alive and well,” citing widespread public support he said includes “the majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents and a growing number of communities across the country engaging and mobilizing every day in support of the legislation.”

“They understand the urgent need to pass this bill and stand up for LGBTQ people across our country,” David added. “As we engage with elected officials, we have confidence that Congress will listen to the voices of their constituents and continue fighting for the Equality Act through the lengthy legislative process.  We will also continue our unprecedented campaign to grow the already-high public support for a popular bill that will save lives and make our country fairer and more equal for all. We will not stop until the Equality Act is passed.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), chief sponsor of the Equality Act in the Senate, also signaled through a spokesperson work continues on the legislation, refusing to give up on expectations the legislation would soon become law.

“Sen. Merkley and his staff are in active discussions with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to try to get this done,” McLennan said. “We definitely see it as a key priority that we expect to become law.”

A spokesperson Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who had promised to force a vote on the Equality Act in the Senate on the day the U.S. House approved it earlier this year, pointed to a March 25 “Dear Colleague” letter in which he identified the Equality Act as one of several bills he’d bring up for a vote.

Despite any assurances, the hold up on the bill is apparent. Although the U.S. House approved the legislation earlier this year, the Senate Judiciary Committee hasn’t even reported out the bill yet to the floor in the aftermath of the first-ever Senate hearing on the bill in March. A Senate Judiciary Committee Democratic aide, however, disputed that inaction as evidence the Equality Act is dead in its tracks: “Bipartisan efforts on a path forward are ongoing.”

Democrats are quick to blame Republicans for inaction on the Equality Act, but with Manchin withholding his support for the legislation they can’t even count on the entirety of their caucus to vote “yes” if it came to the floor. Progressives continue to advocate an end to the filibuster to advance legislation Biden has promised as part of his agenda, but even if they were to overcome headwinds and dismantle the institution needing 60 votes to advance legislation, the Equality Act would likely not have majority support to win approval in the Senate with a 50-50 party split.

The office of Manchin, who has previously said he couldn’t support the Equality Act over concerns about public schools having to implement the transgender protections applying to sports and bathrooms, hasn’t responded to multiple requests this year from the Blade on the legislation and didn’t respond to a request to comment for this article.

Meanwhile, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who declined to co-sponsor the Equality Act this year after having signed onto the legislation in the previous Congress, insisted through a spokesperson talks are still happening across the aisle despite the appearances the legislation is dead.

“There continues to be bipartisan support for passing a law that protects the civil rights of Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Annie Clark, a Collins spokesperson. “The Equality Act was a starting point for negotiations, and in its current form, it cannot pass. That’s why there are ongoing discussions among senators and stakeholders about a path forward.”

Let’s face it: Anti-LGBTQ forces have railroaded the debate by making the Equality Act about an end to women’s sports by allowing transgender athletes and danger to women in sex-segregated places like bathrooms and prisons. That doesn’t even get into resolving the issue on drawing the line between civil rights for LGBTQ people and religious freedom, which continues to be litigated in the courts as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected any day now to issue a ruling in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia to determine if foster care agencies can reject same-sex couples over religious objections.

For transgender Americans, who continue to report discrimination and violence at high rates, the absence of the Equality Act may be most keenly felt.

Mara Keisling, outgoing executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, disputed any notion the Equality Act is dead and insisted the legislation is “very much alive.”

“We remain optimistic despite misinformation from the opposition,” Keisling said. “NCTE and our movement partners are still working fruitfully on the Equality Act with senators. In fact, we are gaining momentum with all the field organizing we’re doing, like phone banking constituents to call their senators. Legislating takes time. Nothing ever gets through Congress quickly. We expect to see a vote during this Congress, and we are hopeful we can win.”

But one Democratic source said calls to members of Congress against the Equality Act, apparently coordinated by groups like the Heritage Foundation, have has outnumbered calls in favor of it by a substantial margin, with a particular emphasis on Manchin.

No stories are present in the media about same-sex couples being kicked out of a restaurant for holding hands or transgender people for using the restroom consistent with their gender identity, which would be perfectly legal in 25 states thanks to the patchwork of civil rights laws throughout the United States and inadequate protections under federal law.

Tyler Deaton, senior adviser for the American Unity Fund, which has bolstered the Republican-led Fairness for All Act as an alternative to the Equality Act, said he continues to believe the votes are present for a compromise form of the bill.

“I know for a fact there is a supermajority level of support in the Senate for a version of the Equality Act that is fully protective of both LGBTQ civil rights and religious freedom,” Deaton said. “There is interest on both sides of the aisle in getting something done this Congress.”

Deaton, however, didn’t respond to a follow-up inquiry on what evidence exists of agreeing on this compromise.

Biden has already missed the goal he campaigned on in the 2020 election to sign the Equality Act into law within his first 100 days in office. Although Biden renewed his call to pass the legislation in his speech to Congress last month, as things stand now that appears to be a goal he won’t realize for the remainder of this Congress.

Nor has the Biden administration made the Equality Act an issue for top officials within the administration as it pushes for an infrastructure package as a top priority. One Democratic insider said Louisa Terrell, legislative affairs director for the White House, delegated work on the Equality Act to a deputy as opposed to handling it herself.

To be sure, Biden has demonstrated support for the LGBTQ community through executive action at an unprecedented rate, signing an executive order on day one ordering federal agencies to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County to the fullest extent possible and dismantling former President Trump’s transgender military ban. Biden also made historic LGBTQ appointments with the confirmation of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Rachel Levine as assistant secretary of health.

A White House spokesperson insisted Biden’s team across the board remains committed to the Equality Act, pointing to his remarks to Congress.

“President Biden has urged Congress to get the Equality Act to his desk so he can sign it into law and provide long overdue civil rights protections to LGBTQ+ Americans, and he remains committed to seeing this legislation passed as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said. “The White House and its entire legislative team remains in ongoing and close coordination with organizations, leaders, members of Congress, including the Equality Caucus, and staff to ensure we are working across the aisle to push the Equality Act forward.”

But at least in the near-term, that progress will fall short of fulfilling the promise of updating federal civil rights law with the Equality Act, which will mean LGBTQ people won’t be able to rely on those protections when faced with discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

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