Women in LGBT Community are More Likely to Live in Poverty

March 17th 2015

Laura Donovan

A new report from the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) and the Center for American Progress (CAP) reveals a troubling reality for the LGBT community: the 5.1 million LGBT women in the U.S. are among the most at risk for poverty. These women endure harassment, violence, lower pay, and have trouble getting access to healthcare, among other hurdles.

“Even at a time when the public is showing increased understanding and acceptance of LGBT people and their relationships, the unique concerns and struggles of LGBT women are largely absent in the national conversation,” Laura E. Durso, Director of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at CAP, said in a statement

Ineke Mushovic, executive director of MAP, said certain LGBT women are especially disadvantaged.

"[T]he burden falls most acutely on those who can least afford it: LGBT women raising children, older LGBT women, LGBT women of color, LGBT immigrants, and those LGBT women and families who are already living near or below the poverty line," Mushovic said in a statement.

There's also a higher percentage of bisexual and lesbian women in poverty compared to straight women. Latina and black women in same-sex relationships are about three times likelier to be poverty-stricken than their white female counterparts also in same-sex relationships. Women 65 and up in same-sex relationships are around twice as likely to live in poverty than straight, married couples in that age group. 

Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, writes that discriminatory laws in America.

"LGBTQ people should enjoy the same nondiscrimination protections as other protected groups in federal laws such as Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act," Carey wrote in a piece for Advocate.com. "We need equal and fair pay that Congress can help deliver by passing the Fair Paycheck Act and the Minimum Wage Fairness Act ... And with the advent of politicians pushing legislation to allow religion to be used as an excuse to discriminate, we must push back on efforts that could provide a free pass for bias at the local, state, and federal level."

Acceptance of gays and lesbians in America has increased since the early 2000s, according to a 2013 Gallup poll, and a 2013 survey conducted by the National Journal found that 66 percent of people said they'd support legislation to protect transgender individuals in the workplace. Earlier this month, 379 big companies signed an amicus brief telling the Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage in every state, asserting that states without same-sex marriage freedom are bad for business.

"State laws that prohibit or decline to recognize marriages between same-sex couples hamper employer efforts to recruit and retain the most talented workforce possible in those states," the brief states. "Our successes depend upon the welfare and morale of all employees, without distinction. Some of the states in which [we] do business make marriage equally available to all of our employees and colleagues; others prohibit marriages between couples of the same sex and refuse to recognize existing same-sex marriages. This dual regime burdens [businesses]. It creates legal uncertainty and imposes unnecessary costs and administrative complexities on employers, and requires differential employer treatment of employees who are similarly situated save for the state where they reside."

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill last week that provides discrimination protection to LGBT people in search of housing and employment. This is progress for a conservative-leaning state, although religious organizations are exempt from the piece of legislation.