Education International
Education International

USA: LGBT people pay an ‘unfair price’

published 10 October 2014 updated 10 October 2014

Education International (EI) welcomes a landmark report which provides a stark picture of the added financial burdens faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in United States because of discriminatory laws.

These laws and unwelcoming environments harm LGBT people, including teachers and education personnel, through financial penalties (higher taxes, reduced wages and social security income, increased healthcare costs and reduced access to higher education), economic insecurity, and increased poverty.

The new report, Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for Being LGBT in America, was co-authored by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) and the Center for American Progress (CAP), in partnership with one of EI’s national affiliate, the National Education Association (NEA), the Center for Community Change, the Center for Popular Democracy, and the National Association of Social Workers.

“We, education unions, need more data and research to address LGBT exclusion in education, at work, and in society,” said Fred van Leeuwen, EI General Secretary. “Education International congratulates our member organisation, NEA, for its partnership and involvement in this new and timely landmark report.”

Widespread discrimination

Laura E. Durso, LGBT Progress Director at CAP, said: “Imagine losing your job or your home simply because of who you are or whom you love. Imagine having to choose between paying the rent and finding legal help so you can establish parenting rights for the child you have been raising from birth.”

These are just some of the added costs that are affecting the economic security of LGBT people across the country, she added.

Even where legal protection is in place, the reality is that many LGBT workers still face considerable discrimination. This begins in education and continues through the employment cycle. EI’s affiliates, the NEA and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) play an important role in breaking these cycles of stigma and discrimination. The NEA also works in strengthening the learning environment.

The failure to protect LGBT people

In the US, LGBT employees have no workplace protections in 29 states - 33 if transgender.  And while more and more countries worldwide are adopting laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity,  LGBT persons still risk going to prison, or worse, in 78 countries because of laws criminalising homosexuality. The realisation of human rights and the right to equality require actions and law changes.

Around the world, the threat of discrimination leads most LGBT workers to conceal their sexual orientation or gender identity at work. This can lead to considerable anxiety and related health issues.

Three ‘failures’

The landmark report pinpoints three “state failures” financially penalising LGBT people: failure to protect LGBT people from discrimination, failure to legally recognise LGBT families, and failure to protect LGBT students.

Students are vulnerable on two major fronts. Firstly, the bullying and harassment LGBT students experience in school can lead to poor grades, dropping out of school, and even homelessness. LGBT students at college level also report feeling unsafe and unwelcome. Secondly, obtaining financial aid can be difficult for LGBT students and students with LGBT parents for several reasons, including often-strained relationships with parents and difficulties related to identification documents for transgender students.

Most states in the US do not have laws prohibiting discrimination in schools based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Only 13 states and the District of Columbia currently have such laws on the books. Slightly more states, i.e. 18, have enacted laws prohibiting bullying of LGBT students.

Policy recommendations

Paying an Unfair Price provides a menu of policy recommendations that can at least begin to break the cycle of poverty that has trapped many LGBT people in the US, including:

  • Instituting basic nondiscrimination protections at the federal and state level
  • Allowing same-sex couples to marry in all states
  • Allowing LGBT parents to form legal ties with the children they are raising
  • Protecting students from discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity

EI Congress 2015 will review key developments

EI is making sure that the rights of all union members are protected from discrimination. At its 2015 World Congress in Ottawa, Canada, EI will review its key developments, including progress on achieving equality and inclusion in education and education unions. The availability of new data sources are critical for better informed union policy decisions. EI urges all affiliates to complete each section of the survey to the greatest extent possible. The deadline for the survey completion is 31 October. For more information, write to [email protected]


- NEA today:  How LGBT Students Can Pay an ‘Unfair Price’ Over a Lifetime


- Infographics drawn from the report http://www.lgbtmap.org/unfair-price-infographics

- Video: Maria’s Unfair Price http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpMwsRrlZNo