December 6, 2012

Jae C. Hong (AP)

We have heard from quite a few constituencies of late about the need for President Obama and Congress to come to a deal over the so-called “fiscal cliff.”  On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of governors made their views clear. Today, an unprecedented letter  from wealthy gay and lesbian Americans dropped on the congressional leadership in both parties calling on them to “work with President Obama to avoid the fiscal cliff with a balanced approach, and to preserve the middle class tax cuts while allowing tax cuts for millionaires like us expire.”

What, you thought the gays only cared about gay marriage?

The letter to Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi from 24 gay and lesbian 1-percenters highlights the negative economic impact going over the fiscal cliff would have on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) households. The signators include Suze Orman, personal finance adviser and television host, Tim Gill, the founder and former chairman of Quark, and Bruce Bastian, the co-founder of WordPerfect

A report from the Center for American Progress, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and a coalition of 23 national LGBT organizations released last month was a foundation of their call for action.

Across-the-board cuts would compromise LGBT health by reducing programmatic funding used to address the health care needs of gay and transgender Americans, impair the federal government’s ability to investigate claims of workplace discrimination, and remove critical resources from government agencies working to prevent bullying and school violence.

At the same time, higher tax rates would further endanger middle class and working class members of our community. LGBT Americans have lower levels of income than other Americans, according to a recent Gallup report, and face additional economic obstacles caused by the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and the lack of federal workplace protections.

I have written many times about the income inequality already faced by LGBT families. Sliding over the cliff (or slope or curb or whatever metaphor folks have gravitated to of late) would only make things worse.

“As someone who runs a grant making foundation that focuses on LGBT youth homelessness, I see first hand the devastating effects of what happens when funds are cut to the programs supporting our youth,” Terrence Meck, executive director of The Palette Fund and president of a real estate development firm in New York City, told me via e-mail. “I have been very fortunate in my 34 years and not only feel that it is my duty to do more, but would be honored to help ensure that necessary funds to our most vulnerable populations are preserved.”

“The fiscal cliff isn’t just an abstract issue — it could have a real impact on the day to day lives of all Americans, including women and members of the LGBT community,” said Sarah Schmidt, chair and treasurer of LPAC, a super PAC focused on candidates who support issues important to lesbians. “Most Americans just can’t afford for their taxes to go up. I’m willing to do my share — and we need others to step up and do theirs.”

As Schmidt said, and as you can see in the full letter below, these wealthy Americans want to do their part to help pull the country out of its deep financial hole. That these are lesbians and gay men making their voices heard on an issue that doesn’t directly deal with gay issues is an even clearer sign that LGBT Americans, part of the Obama coalition that helped propel him to a decisive second term, are ready to take their seat at the table.

Dear Speaker Boehner, Senator Reid, Senator McConnell, and Representative Pelosi:

We are successful LGBT Americans who now or in the past have earned an annual income of $1,000,000 or more.

America has been good to us: it has provided the foundation and opportunity to succeed. We want that same opportunity and possibility for all Americans, but we are concerned about the future of our community and our country.

At the end of this year, a series of deadlines will require our leaders to make important decisions that will have a huge impact on the economy — and on the LGBT community. If Congress fails to act, across-the-board cuts to vital programs will be triggered even as taxes go up on the middle class.

For LGBT Americans, this “fiscal cliff” isn’t just an abstract concept. A report released by the Center for American Progress, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, and a coalition of 23 national LGBT organizations outlines the real and lasting impact it would have.

Across-the-board cuts would compromise LGBT health by reducing programmatic funding used to address the health care needs of gay and transgender Americans, impair the federal government’s ability to investigate claims of workplace discrimination, and remove critical resources from government agencies working to prevent bullying and school violence.

At the same time, higher tax rates would further endanger middle class and working class members of our community. LGBT Americans have lower levels of income than other Americans, according to a recent Gallup report, and face additional economic obstacles caused by the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and the lack of federal workplace protections.

In the recent election, many of us contributed significantly to re-elect the President, and we support the President’s vision of a country in which everyone has a fair shot and does his or her fair share.

We urge Congress to work with President Obama to avoid the fiscal cliff with a balanced approach, and to preserve the middle class tax cuts while allowing tax cuts for the best off to expire.  It’s the right thing to do.

Signed,

The Honorable Bruce W. Bastian
Terry Bean
Paul Boskind
David Bohnett
Roberta Conroy
Bill Derrough
Karen K. Dixon & Nan Schaffer
Joe Falk
Dale Frederiksen & Bob Page
Nanette Gartrell, MD & Dee (Diane) Mosbacher MD, PhD
Tim Gill
Mel Heifetz
Glenn Johnson & Michael Melancon
Kathy Levinson
Terrence Meck
Charles Myers
Suze Orman & Kathy Travis
Laura Ricketts
Sarah Schmidt
Andrew Tobias

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.