Congress may be in recess, but this is certainly not the time for a vacation!
Our legislators have all left Washington, D.C., to return to their home districts and begin a round of public appearances, town hall meetings and for some, officially launch their re-election campaigns. This is a perfect opportunity for you to pay them a visit and ask them about issues that are important to you!
We hope that you will ask them about their plans for bringing equality to LGBT people, including passing legislation to prohibit LGBT employment discrimination and repealing the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. But you should also be asking them about the federal budget.
These days, more and more people are forced to work in jobs that pay minimum wage and offer little or no benefits. The current federal minimum wage — at $7.25 an hour — amounts to only $15,080 a year. If the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation over the last 40 years it would now be $10.55 an hour.
Compare $15,000 to a member of Congress who earns $174,000 a year and can look forward to living a life of comfort and financial security. Minimum wage earners may never know that same kind of comfort and security. Their wages don’t provide enough money to support a family, much less being able to save for any emergency. They often hold jobs in the service industry without paid sick leave or health benefits that they can afford.
During the economic downturn, 60 percent of U.S. jobs lost were middle-income positions, and the majority of jobs gained during the recovery have been in low-wage occupations. These minimum–wage workers, and other people with very low-income are too often hidden from view of congressional members and congressional candidates.
It’s time we started talking about the needs of LGBT individuals and families with low-incomes. Consider this:
- 20 percent: The amount of female same-sex couples who are raising children and living in poverty, compared to 9 percent of married heterosexual couples who are raising children and living in poverty.
- $41,000: The average income of Hispanic lesbian couples — the average household income of a Hispanic heterosexual couple is $44,420.
- 21.1 percent: The poverty rate of black lesbian couples versus 4.3 percent for white lesbian couples and 14.4 percent for black gay male couples.
- Twice as likely: Lesbian couples who are 65 or older are twice as likely to be poor as heterosexual married couples that are the same age.
- Four times more likely: Transgender individuals with a household income of less than $10,000/year compared to the general population, according to results from Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.
So, please go to town hall meetings. Show up at candidate forums and ask them if they plan to cut vital programs for low-income and poor people or ask the rich to actually pay their fair share.
What is their position on:
- Tax Cuts – would they extend tax cuts for everyone except the richest 2% of the population?
- The Federal Deficit – What is their plan to reduce it?
Remember, the number of poor people has increased dramatically in the last decade and it disproportionately affects LGBT people, especially people of color. Our future is at stake and we can’t allow our elected officials to ignore these facts. Use this August recess to make them state their intentions and commit to bringing equality of opportunity to everyone.