By Caitlin Breedlove, SONG Co-Director
As an LGBTQ person, I think what is happening at the North Carolina legislature affects our community deeply. I want LGBTQ people to be involved in fighting back against this repressive legislation because I think it is the right thing to do, but also because it deeply affects us. In the past few months, we have seen terrible changes in North Carolina– the cutting of Medicaid for half a million North Carolinians who are poor and working poor. Attacks against voting rights, our schools, healthcare rights for poor people, and the demonizing of immigrants. These are LGBTQ issues. They impact LGBTQ people deeply. Here is how*:
Poverty: Children raised in Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual families are twice as likely to grow up in poverty as kids raised in heterosexual households. Rural and African-American LGB people are even more likely to live in poverty, and lesbians are consistently more likely to be living in poverty than heterosexual women
Immigration: It seems simple, but thousands of immigrants are also LGBTQ people.
Medicaid: For the first time, low-income LGBT Americans have access to Medicaid. Failing to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, deprives hundreds of thousands of low-income North Carolinians, including low-income LGBT North Carolinians, from access to health care.
Voting Rights: Over 40% of Transgender people do not have ID that matches their gender identity. This means many of them will be harassed while trying to vote, or denied their vote.
Schools: 84% of LGBT youth nationally report harassment in schools. Almost 1/3 of LGBT students drop out of high school—that is 3 times more than the national average. Our LGBT children in North Carolina are already struggling in schools, and need good schools.
When so many LGBTQ people and our allies fought for basic dignity and rights when Amendment One was on the ballot, we knew why it mattered. We still do. Yet, we saw the national media frame the groundswell in May 2012 around the Amendment all wrong. They focused on us losing at the ballot by roughly 60% to 40%.
What they failed to say is that the vote was held on a Republican primary—which means that if Amendment One had not been on the ballot there would have been only registered Republicans voting–instead 840,000 people voted against Amendment One. Thousands of those people were mobilized by the organizing that happened against the Amendment. LGBT North Carolinians and our allies have tremendous power—when we choose to use it. But, last year was a hard year for LGBT North Carolinians—and many of us have been lying low.
Today, five major LGBTQ organizations (SONG, Equality NC, Freedom Center for Social Justice, NC HEAT, and LGBT Center of Raleigh) around the state have issued a press statement with much of the information in this blog. Our goal? To call upon LGBTQ North Carolinians and our allies to see that the repressive policies coming out of Raleigh impact ‘us’ deeply, and this is not a time to ‘sit this one out’ in terms of our activism. These are our issues; this is our state, and our future. We owe it to not only to our state in some general sense, but also to each other in the LGBTQ community.
(*Williams Institute, Lambda Legal)