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We’re Suing the Department of Health and Human Services. Here’s Why.

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The White House

The Trump Administration is trying to make it okay for homelessness services to discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, and religion.

We won’t let that happen.

In late 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced their intention to suspend enforcement of critical protections from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, and religion in all HHS grants.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread rapidly throughout the U.S., LGBTQ youth and young adults experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness are left particularly vulnerable by the Trump administration’s illegal action.

This unlawful federal abandonment of LGBTQ youth is particularly dangerous now, and could have catastrophic and even deadly consequences. This license to discriminate could result in denial of access by LGBTQ youth to homelessness services, including shelters, leaving them in harm’s way while also hampering the extraordinary efforts Americans are undertaking to slow the spread of Coronavirus.

After consulting with our Board of Directors, respected partner organizations, and leaders in the field, True Colors United, in partnership with Family Equality and SAGE, will be taking legal action against HHS. By abdicating their responsibility for ensuring that marginalized Americans receive these services without discrimination, our federal government commits a grave violation against the people it serves and threatens to undue decades of progress toward a more equitable and just society. You can read our full press release here.

“The Federal Government has a duty to protect the most vulnerable among us – especially with regard to our youth. By abdicating its responsibility to protect LGBTQ Americans from discrimination in accessing critical programs, HHS commits a grave violation against the people it exists to serve,” says Gregory Lewis,  Executive Director & CEO of True Colors United. “LGBTQ youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness than their straight and cisgender peers. Transgender youth are at especially high risk and face unique types of discrimination and trauma while experiencing homelessness. Young people should never have to fear discrimination or violence in seeking services, and we must not fail them by rolling back the very policies meant to protect them.”

Here’s the bottom line.

  • HHS has a responsibility to ensure that the money they grant isn’t used to harm people.
  • A significant percentage of youth and young adults experiencing homelessness are LGBTQ. By neglecting to enforce non-discrimination protections within Runaway and Homeless Youth services, HHS shows a reckless and willful blindness to the critical needs of young people.
  • To the youth and young adults out there who are worried or scared – the law is still on your side. We have your backs, and are confident this discrimination from HHS will not hold up in court.

More on the lawsuit.

HHS administers billions in taxpayer dollars each year to protect and preserve the health and human dignity of the millions of Americans its programs serve, including the most vulnerable youth and young adults in our country. 

Among the grant programs administered by HHS are the Runaway and Homeless Youth Street Outreach, Basic Center, and Transitional Living programs, which connect youth and young adults experiencing homelessness to emergency shelter, crisis intervention, food, clothing, and medical care, as well as longer-term interventions to support youth and young adults in achieving better outcomes in employment, housing, health, and education. 40% of youth experiencing homelessness are LGBTQ. Under the current rule, these programs cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, and religion. The Trump Administration is now saying that they can.

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Dylan Waguespack is a proud New Orleanian and a graduate of Ben Franklin High School. He lives in Northeast D.C. with his partner, Matthew, and his dog, Ham.