Oppose Discriminatory Marriage and Fatherhood Promotion in Welfare Policy

February 28, 2003

Call Your Senator Now and Urge a No Vote on H.R. 4!

House Republicans introduced and passed a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) reauthorization bill, HR 4, in one day on February 13, 2003. The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to start work on its welfare reform bill on March 12. In early February, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) urged people to call their House representative to urge a no vote on HR 4. Today we ask that you call your Senators and ask them to do the same.

The Bush Administration's vision is not the one that will best help gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender TANF recipients or many heterosexual single parent recipients. The House Republican bill provides funds for "healthy marriage promotion activities" and "fatherhood programs" that assume everyone is straight, and promote marriage and fatherhood as the solution to child poverty. Marriage and father involvement in the raising of a child should be determined by the individual parents and the courts, not mandated by the federal government. The House welfare bill would increase funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage education. Abstinence-only-until-marriage also assumes everyone is straight and stigmatizes homosexuality, GLBT youth and children of GLBT parents. We must have a TANF bill that is sensitive to the needs of poor GLBT people and GLBT youth in the schools.

"All of us committed to GLBT equality and economic justice should pay close attention to the reauthorization of welfare reform, and in particular to the Bush Administration's fatherhood and marriage initiatives," cautions Lorri L. Jean, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director. "Marriage and fatherhood initiatives threaten millions of single-parent and unmarried two-parent families with children, not to mention the fact that same-sex couples are denied the right to marry, thereby making them ineligible for these programs. These initiatives are a monumental waste of money that could be put to much better use to lift people out of poverty."

In December 2001, the NGLTF Policy Institute published Leaving Our Children Behind: Welfare Reform and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community. This report examines the threat posed by the Bush Administration's marriage and fatherhood initiatives toward lesbian mothers and other GLBT parents, and the potentially devastating impact of marriage and fatherhood promotion efforts on single-parent families, which are disproportionately represented among African American and Latino families with children. This study also examined the potentially discriminatory effects of the faith-based initiative and the threat posed to all youth, but particularly GLBT youth, by abstinence-only-until-marriage education. Based on this report, NGLTF staff testified in front of Congress and raised concerns about welfare policy in a meeting with 13 U.S. Senators in April 2002. The National Policy Roundtable wrote a letter to these Senators expressing concerns about the hetero-centrism in such initiatives, and advocating changes to make these initiatives more inclusive of GLBT families. NGLTF is now developing strategies to work with state activists to document and challenge abuses under the implementation of these policies. Unfortunately, all of these initiatives have passed in some form, though the amounts budgeted for marriage and fatherhood promotion are less than what Bush originally sought. Most recently, NGLTF filed a Freedom of Information Act request to get copies of the proposals submitted by three organizations recently funded by the Bush administration to promote marriage and fatherhood among women on welfare. The NGLTF Policy Institute is currently analyzing those proposals.

The House bill earmarks $100 million per year -- a total of $500 million over five years -- in a matching grant scheme with states for the promotion of heterosexual marriage. But federal spending for the promotion of marriage as a solution to poverty could go much higher. In fact, the total federal allocation could amount to as much as $200 million a year or $1 billion over five years. And there is no ceiling on the expenditures that could be made by the states.

HR 4 also provides federal funding -- $100 million over five years -- for a Fatherhood Initiative. The Fatherhood Initiative promotes the anti-gay claim that every child should be raised by one father and one mother. This ignores the fact that millions of children are being raised by same-sex couples or single GLBT parents, as well as many straight single parents. The Fatherhood Initiative will pursue the promotion of heterosexual marriage as well.


Please call your two U.S. Senators IMMEDIATELY and ask them to Vote no on H.R. 4 and ensure that TANF Reauthorization reallocates the more than $500 million from marriage and fatherhood promotion and funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage education into proven paths out of poverty like education and job training. If you do not know who your Senators are or their phone numbers, you can go to the Senate Web site and follow the link to find that information.


"I'm asking ______ to vote no on H.R. 4 and ensure that the welfare reauthorization bill reallocates the hundreds of millions of dollars wasted on marriage and fatherhood promotion and ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage education into programs that are proven to reduce poverty. The bill does not take into account the reality of most poor people, let alone poor gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people."


For more information on the impact of welfare reform, read the NGLTF publication Leaving Our Children Behind: Welfare Reform and the GLBT Community at the NGLTF libraryAlso, read the NGLTF welfare fact sheet.

Coalition on Human Needs has in depth information about welfare and reauthorization.


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.