Millennials compose the largest, most educated, and most diverse generation in history, but are simultaneously saddled by unprecedented levels of debt, stubbornly high rates of unemployment, and widespread poverty. Recent polling shows that Millennials are the only generation to prioritize economic stability over prosperity, meaning they’re not just struggling to get ahead, they’re struggling to get by. To that end, just 13 percent of Millennials believe they are “getting ahead” economically, while 64 percent feel they are “getting by” and 23 percent feel they are “falling behind.”
Lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Millennials, who often live at the intersection of multiple vulnerable populations, face many of the same barriers to economic stability as other Millennials but can face additional obstacles because of discrimination for who they are and who they love. In a 2013 report from the Williams Institute studying 2010 data from the American Community Survey, an analysis of different-sex and same-sex couples found that, across every type of couple, young people faced the highest poverty rates. Among women in same-sex relationships, 25.3 percent of those under 25 experienced poverty, compared to 13.1 percent of those between 25 and 34, 6.1 percent of those between 35 and 44, and 1.5 percent of those between 45 and 54 (the poverty rates increase again for those 55 and older). Notably, while 25.3 percent of women in same-sex relationships under age 25 experienced poverty, the rate for people under 25 in married different-sex relationships was 6.5 percentage points lower, at 18.8 percent. The analysis found a similar decline in poverty rates by age for men in same-sex relationships: 21.7 of men in same-sex relationships under 25 were in poverty, versus just 3.7 percent of those between 25 and 34, 3.1 percent of those 35 to 44, and 4.7 of those 45 to 54. Men under 25 in same-sex relationships were 10 times more likely to be in poverty than men over 55 in same-sex relationships.
While legal protections won’t solve everything, comprehensive protections for LGBTQ people that guard against discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations would help give LGBTQ Millennials their fair shot at economic stability. Today, a majority of LGBTQ Americans are still at risk of being fired because of their identity or denied access to housing and public accommodations, creating unnecessary and significant obstacles in their path toward economic stability. Just 19 states have explicit, statutory provisions protecting people from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, meaning 31 states and the federal government lack explicit laws protecting LGBTQ Americans from discrimination. And even when protections are in place, they often fail to include the wide diversity of people who identify as LGBTQ: some protections cover sexual orientation but not gender identity or gender expression. Narrow protections that do not include gender identity and gender expression can leave transgender and gender nonconforming individuals vulnerable to discrimination and without legal recourse.
Young LGBTQ Americans, part of an already financially unstable generation, need comprehensive nondiscrimination protections that are both inclusive—that is, encompassing of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression—and expansive—covering all areas of life, from employment to housing to public accommodations—to ensure they have their fair shot at economic stability regardless of who they are and who they love.
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