Bush Proposals Threaten GLBT Families, NGLTF Welfare Report Discloses

December 10, 2001

Existing welfare policies as well as proposals advocated by Bush Administration appointees could devastate gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) families and individuals, according to a report released today by the Policy Institute of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Welfare reform proposals could effectively bar children of GLBT parents and single or unmarried heterosexual parents from eligibility for benefits like access to Head Start programs and low-interest student loans. Other initiatives could ban GLBT people from adopting or accessing fertility clinics, make divorce much harder to obtain, and stigmatize GLBT youth in the nation's schools. The report, Leaving Our Children Behind: Welfare Reform and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community, analyzes welfare reform, its impact on poor GLBT people, and the threats posed to the entire GLBT community.

"Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are placed at grave risk by welfare reform. These initiatives are fundamentally about family policy – about promoting particular kinds of families while penalizing and stigmatizing others," said Lorri L. Jean, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "Welfare is an issue of concern to all of us because how we treat the most vulnerable in our society says a lot about who we are."

Featured prominently is the so-called "charitable choice" faith-based initiative. It threatens to hand over entire social service sectors - $80 billion over 10 years – to anti-GLBT religious providers who can legally discriminate against GLBT people and people of other religions, and who can engage in sectarian proselytizing with tax dollars.

The welfare reform act of 1996, officially called the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, is up for reauthorization in 2002. The outcome will surely be influenced by former prominent conservative movement leaders who now hold key policy-making positions within the Bush Administration, such as Wade Horn, Don Eberly, and Andrew Bush. Leaving Our Children Behind documents their reactionary agenda to further change social service provision in the United States. While measures such as fatherhood initiatives, (heterosexual) marriage initiatives, abstinence-only education, and charitable choice may stem from good intentions, they make for bad public policy. Some of the more extreme proposals include:

  • Prioritizing the children of married heterosexual parents over other low-income children in the distribution of limited-supply benefits like Head Start slots and financial aid. Only if there is anything left over would the children of single parents and same-sex couples be allowed to access these benefits;

  • Forcing lesbian and bisexual women temporarily relying on welfare to allow their children's biological fathers to co-parent, or else risk losing benefits;

  • Outlawing adoption and the use of fertility clinics by same-sex couples and unmarried individuals;

  • Ending no-fault divorce and requiring mutual consent of both spouses before divorce is granted;

  • Reauthorizing the abstinence-only-until-marriage provision, many of which reinforce dangerous stereotypes about GLBT people, girls, and people living with HIV. The restriction has also led public health departments in some states to give back federal AIDS prevention funding rather than spend it, out of a mistaken fear of violating the provision.

"Both the GLBT community and communities of color have a lot to lose if these reactionary proposals are implemented," said Jean. "This is not only an issue of concern to those supporting equal treatment of GLBT families, but also an issue of racial and economic justice."

NGLTF's Policy Institute produced this groundbreaking study. Founded in 1995, the Policy Institute is a think tank dedicated to research, policy analysis, strategy development and coalition building to advance the understanding and equality of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people. The report authors are Dr. Sean Cahill, director of the Policy Institute, and Kenneth T. Jones, its research director. The report can be downloaded or purchased at


The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.