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When I first heard that the GOP debate this week would be about economics, I didn’t have much interest in it. As a member of the LGBT community, I often find myself more interested in social issues and politicians’ stances on topics directly related to LGBT issues. I thought, “How could this debate relate to anything I am interested in?”
I was surprised to find that it was still relevant to LGBT communities. Ben Carson was asked directly about his stance on marriage equality. This was a small glimmer of positivity as he said that the Constitution should protect everyone, despite his “traditional” marriage stance.
The question was asked because his company offers benefits to same-sex couples. This hope was short-lived though; Carson followed up the statement with “[the LGBT community] shouldn’t automatically assume that because you believe that marriage is between one man and one woman that you are a homophobe.” In truth, that actually does make you a homophobe.
In addition to this direct mentioning, I began to think about how else economic policy affects the LGBT community. Some LGBT youth — often trans youth, specifically — are forced to leave their homes upon coming out to their families. These displaced youth then have to find housing and often cannot find stable places to stay because of discrimination from the housing entities or other homeless youth staying in these same homes. In a study done by the National Center for Transgender Equality, of the 6,000 participants surveyed:
“26 percent of respondents reported having to find different places to sleep for short periods of time due to bias. 11 percent of respondents reported having been evicted due to bias, and 19 percent reported becoming homeless due to bias.”
In addition to homelessness, many people in the LGBT community face discrimination in the workplace. There are no national laws protecting LGBT workers from being fired because of their sexual or gender identity; only in 18 states are there explicit protections against discrimination for sexual and gender identity.
Without this protection, job security is at stake for those in the community, and if they get fired, they’re then dependent on unemployment help that comes from programs like Social Security. If one of the GOP candidates gets elected into office and cuts these programs, he or she will directly impact those who have been fired because of LGBT discrimination.
These youth need a source of income from places like Social Security and welfare because of the discrimination they experience. Without these programs, they will be left to fight for themselves in a job market that is pitted against them.
When 28 percent of LGBT youth drop out of school because of sexuality and gender identity discrimination, they are immediately put at a disadvantage in the job market as well. If these programs get cut, these communities will suffer more and force more people into poverty as opposed to fixing the country.
Since the legalization of same-sex marriage, the issue of Social Security has been up in the air as to how it will affect couples who might benefit. The idea is that same-sex couples would get the same benefits as straight couples. In the past, a same-sex couple wouldn’t be able to share benefits of Social Security if one person in the couple dies, because the spouse was not considered eligible to claim the death benefits.
If one of these pro “traditional” marriage candidates enters office and revokes marriage equality, he or she will take away a main source of income for these elderly LGBT folks who depend on the same source of income that straight couples get automatically.
The moderators also asked about government involvement with the pharmaceutical industry. This is important for the LGBT community, because this community has the highest percentage of HIV-positive people who need medicine to stay healthy. Once specific example where regulation could have been helpful came a couple weeks ago, when Martin Shkreli increased the price of an important, life saving HIV management drug by 5,000 percent because he wanted to increase the drug’s profits. This took the drug price from $13.50 a pill to $750, an outrageous price that few would be able to afford. It’s situations like this that lead me, among those in the LGBT community who depend on drugs like this to survive, to support government regulation of the industry to keep stable, affordable pricing on drugs.
To add to all of this, the moderators asked Mike Huckabee about morality in reference to Trump’s stance and opinions as a leader. They noted his position as a preacher. This is fundamentally frustrating to me, because this country is supposed to have a separation of church and state, so asking Huckabee a question on moral authority because he is a preacher violates this separation. It subtly highlights the prevalence of Christian morals regardless of freedom of religion.
Huckabee also supported Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who denied same-sex couples marriage licenses after marriage equality was passed, and held a rally when she was released from jail. This highlights the underlying homophobia that still exists in our society.
Considering all of this, I don’t think there are any good GOP candidates from the LGBT economics perspective, but rather a choice between lesser evils. The Democratic candidates offer much better ways not not only maintain these beneficial programs, but actually strengthen them to be more supportive of underprivileged communities. They are who we should look toward for productive change in government.