- April 22, 2015
Earlier today, the U.S. Senate took a vote on protecting LGBT homeless youth from discrimination.
During the Senate’s consideration of human trafficking legislation, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) offered the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (RHYTPA) as an amendment. Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) also cosponsored the amendment.
RHYTPA would reauthorize essential Runaway and Homeless Youth Act programs, including prevention, emergency shelters, street outreach, transitional living, and assistance in rural areas. A key piece of combatting human trafficking is prevention, and vulnerable homeless youth are often a target for traffickers.
Importantly, RHYTPA includes an explicit non-discrimination provision that would prohibit any provider of these services from discriminating against youth based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, or disability.
LGBT youth are particularly vulnerable to homelessness. In fact, of the nearly 2 million young people who are affected by homelessness each year, consistent research shows that up to 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT, even though they make up only 5 to 10 percent of the overall youth population.
Notably, all 46 Democrats as well as ten Republican Senators voted to protect LGBT youth from discrimination. In addition to Senators Collins, Ayotte, and Murkowski, Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Dean Heller (R-NV), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Rand Paul (R-KY), Rob Portman (R-OH), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Patrick Toomey (R-PA) also supported the amendment.
Unfortunately, despite a strong majority of Senators voting in favor of these vital protections, the amendment fell short of the 60 votes necessary for passage. We are extremely disappointed that 43 Senators chose to ignore the desperate needs of some of our nation’s most vulnerable youth.
We applaud Senators Leahy, Collins, Ayotte, Heitkamp, Murkowski, and Baldwin for their leadership on this important issue, and we will continue working with them to ensure that all LGBT youth are protected from discrimination.