On May 10, 2012, I had the pleasure of spending the entire day with Cyndi Lauper lobbying on behalf of LGBTQ youth that experience homelessness. Along with Gregory Lewis, Executive Director of Cyndi’s foundation, the True Colors Fund, the Center for American Progress and the Human Rights Campaign we spent the morning briefing Cyndi on how to lobby members of Congress. The three “asks” we covered were:
- Increase funding for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) by $12 million.
- Support the Reconnecting Youth to Prevent Homelessness, which was introduced by Senator Kerry last year, a section of which would establish a demonstration project to increase family acceptance of their LGBTQ children and youth in order to decrease risky behavior of children and youth. The demonstration project would be based upon the work of the Family Acceptance Project.
- Add LGBT language to future RHYA reauthorizations: First, add a general statement of nondiscrimination for RHYA that includes sexual orientation and gender identity, prohibiting grant recipients from discriminating against LGBT youth. Second, require RHYA grant applicants to include LGBT youth in any planning documents that are currently needed to qualify for a grant.
We all made visits to the congressional offices of Sen. Franken (D-MN), Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Minority Leader Pelosi (D-CA), and Senator John Kerry (D-MA). We also met with people HUD, HHS, and USICH. I am pleased to report that everyone was very receptive to Cyndi’s personal experiences and observations with LGBTQ homeless youth and the three asks for the day.
It goes without saying that Cyndi’s meetings and presence on the Hill drew some press! In between meetings and going from office to office, Cyndi had multiple requests to be interviewed by outlets such as CNN, MSNBC and others. It was thrilling to see the behind the scenes action!
Finally, we ended the day at a briefing on LGBTQ youth homelessness, which was hosted by the House LGBT Equality Caucus. The panelists consisted of Cyndi Lauper, Andrew Barnett, Sexual Minority Youth Assistance; Deborah Shore, Sasha Bruce Youthwork; Jeff Krehely, Center for American Progress; and myself. It was moderated by Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign. We all spoke to the need to improve the response to LGBTQ youth homelessness by increasing funding, improving data, and ensuring that family intervention is inclusive of the needs of parents with LGBTQ children and youth.
Photo courtesy of Washington Blade magazine.