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Rep. Bonamici: LGBTQ+ Seniors and Youth Most Imperiled by GOP

Rep. Bonamici: LGBTQ+ Seniors and Youth Most Imperiled by GOP

Rep. Bonamici
Courtesy Rep. Bonamici website

The Oregon congresswoman and vice chair of the House Equality Caucus details how she's protecting these vulnerable groups.

Politicians on the right are attacking transgender kids, and these youth are paying the price. This is dangerous, cruel, and unacceptable. As the Representative for NW Oregon, a leader on the House Education Committee, and Vice Chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, I will not let these attacks stand.

I’ve had meaningful conversations with trans youth and their families to discuss the recent surge in anti-LGBTQI+ legislation at the state and federal level. Their stories are heart wrenching, but the resilience of these youth and their families inspires me.

Trans kids want the same things their peers want: to be happy, safe, and included. To play sports, join clubs, and be their authentic selves. Those aspirations are an important part of their development into adults who will go on to live long and happy lives.

I keep the stories of LGBTQI+ youth in mind as we debate these issues in Congress. I’ve highlighted their stories on the House floor and in committee hearings as I oppose anti-equality bills, and will continue to do so as I fight back against the relentless attacks from MAGA Republicans.

Let’s be clear – the continued attacks on LGBTQI+ youth, and transgender youth in particular, are life-threatening. According to the Trevor Project’s 2023 survey on the mental health of LGBTQ youth, one in three respondents attributed poor mental health to anti-LGBTQ policies and legislation. Tragically, 41 percent of LGBTQ youth surveyed reported they seriously considered suicide in the past year, with even higher rates for transgender and nonbinary youth.

We are witnessing anti-equality politicians and demagogues use every tool at their disposal to attack LGBTQI+ people at each stage of their lives. We are also witnessing entire families uproot themselves to settle in pro-equality states so they can access the liberties and freedoms they deserve. But as one family said to me, we shouldn’t have to leave our home state to keep our child safe.

I am honored to represent Oregon’s First Congressional District and to celebrate my state’s commitment to strengthen — rather than restrict — protections for LGBTQI+ Oregonians. In Oregon, state law prohibits discrimination in private insurance on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and our state Medicaid policy explicitly covers transgender-related health care. HB 2002, recently signed by Governor Kotek, expanded the range of gender-affirming care that must be covered under Medicaid and private insurance in Oregon.

But discrimination does not belong anywhere in our country. We need stronger LGBTQI+ protections at the federal level to improve the trajectory of the lives of transgender youth and so all people, wherever they live, can live their lives with dignity and without fear.

As Chair of the Equality Caucus’ LGBTQI+ Aging Issues Task Force, I am committed to doing my part to support LGBTQI+ elders. Decades of marginalization and legal and institutional barriers mean older members of the LGBTQI+ community have fewer sources of support, higher poverty rates, increased social isolation, and inadequate access to health care.

I’m leading the Ruthie and Connie LGBTQI Elder Americans Act — named in honor of LGBTQI+ activists Ruthie Berman and Connie Kurtz — to improve the Older Americans Act so its programs provide better care for older LGBTQI+ Americans.

During Pride Month in 2022, President Biden signed an Executive Order that reflects provisions of my legislation to address the systemic barriers faced by LGBTQI+ seniors, including by strengthening support for LGBTQI+ older adults and committing to data collection improvements. This Executive Order was an important step in improving the lives of LGBTQI+ older adults, and my legislation will build on this progress so LGBTQI+ people have the support they need as they grow older.

This is what it means to advance equality for all regardless of who you are, who you love, at every stage of your life.

It is disheartening that we are still fighting for basic rights for all people in this country. We all have a role to play in fighting for a world where LGBTQI+ people, and all minority groups, enjoy the promise of America: true equality under the law.

I am proud to be an ally of the LGBTQI+ community, and I will continue to fight alongside the Equality Caucus until we enshrine equality into law for all people in this country.

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici represents Oregon's 1st congressional district in the House of Representatives and Vice Chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus.

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Rep. Suzanne Bonamici