LGBTQ Agenda: House GOP nixes millions in proposed funds for queer groups

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday August 8, 2023
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Congressmember Ayanna S. Pressley spoke at the June 2022 groundbreaking of The Pryde senior housing project in Boston. Photo: Courtesy The Pryde
Congressmember Ayanna S. Pressley spoke at the June 2022 groundbreaking of The Pryde senior housing project in Boston. Photo: Courtesy The Pryde

The United States House of Representatives Appropriations Committee voted on party lines last month to strip funding for three LGBTQ groups in a decision Democrats said was motivated by bigotry. The $3.62 million in earmarked funds were rejected 32-26.

The three organizations had secured earmarks in a spending bill from their local representatives. Congressmember Brendan Boyle (D-Pennsylvania) requested $1.8 million for renovations at the William Way LGBT Community Center in Philadelphia; Congressmember Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pennsylvania) requested $970,000 for a transitional housing program at the LGBT Center of Greater Reading; and Congressmember Ayanna S. Pressley (D-Massachusetts) requested $850,000 to build 74 units of affordable housing under the auspices of LGBTQ Senior Housing Inc. in Boston.

It came just as House Republicans proposed cutting all $220 million in funding for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's portion for the Ending the HIV Epidemic program, which started under the most recent Republican president, Donald Trump, as the Bay Area Reporter previously reported.

The B.A.R. reached out to all three community centers but received a statement from just one, LGBTQ Senior Housing Inc. Its housing project, The Pryde, is supposed to be the first LGBTQ-affirming and welcoming affordable senior housing in Massachusetts, according to the group's Executive Director Gretchen Van Ness.

"Last year, with the unwavering support of our congresswoman [Pressley] and other elected officials, we broke ground at The Pryde, the first LGBTQ-affirming and -welcoming affordable senior housing community in Massachusetts," Van Ness stated to the B.A.R. "This targeting of vulnerable LGBTQ elders who, like all seniors, deserve to grow old in a community that supports them and is free from harassment and discrimination, is unconscionable and deeply wrong."

Van Ness added that work will go on for the project, which is an adaptive reuse of the historic former Rogers Middle School in Hyde Park.

This is the first time proposed congressional community project funding has been denied "simply because it benefits the LGBTQ community," Van Ness stated.

Congressmember Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut), the ranking Democrat on the appropriations committee, claimed during its meeting that when Democrats ran the House no GOP earmarks were rejected for ideological reasons.

Van Ness pledged that construction of The Pryde "will not be stopped."

"For the hundreds of low income and economically vulnerable LGBTQ older adults and others who are waiting — many in unsafe circumstances — for the opportunity to apply for housing at The Pryde, please know that the work continues," Van Ness concluded.

Pressley stated, "It is unconscionable that Republican committee members would hold senior citizen-specific housing hostage and continue their dangerous national trend of targeting the LGBTQ+ community."

This in contrast with Republican lawmakers, who argued that the funding was inappropriate. Congressmember Andy Harris (R-Maryland) stated that the funding for LGBTQ groups was discriminatory against people who find homosexuality disagreeable, saying, "The answer to discrimination is not more discrimination."

Harris compared funding the William Way center in Philadelphia, where some progressive groups hold meetings, to funding the Ku Klux Klan.

"If the Ku Klux Klan applied for one, we'd hear an uproar from the other side," he said. "I guess some First Amendment rights aren't OK, and some are."

William Way LGBT Community Center Executive Director Chris Bartlett touted the benefits of its renovation project on Facebook.

"The William Way LGBT Community Center's renovation and expansion project will provide more access to services for our seniors, provide jobs for the neighborhood, and be an incubator for emerging small businesses," Bartlett stated. "We're grateful to Representative Boyle and our many supporters for recognizing its importance and hope the rest of Congress will see the value of economic improvement projects like these and ensure their funding."

The LGBT Center of Greater Reading stated on Facebook, "The decision was based in MISINFORMATION, bigotry and discrimination."

"We have been fighting the battle to simply be respected as a human being and protected by the SAME basic human rights that the rest of the population shares, forever. It's hard to believe it's 2023 and not 1920," the post continued. "The LGBT Center of Greater Reading remains committed to the work we set out to do. And, we will continue with our intended plans to expand and enhance our programs and services."

LGBTQ Agenda is an online column that appears weekly. Got a tip on queer news? Contact John Ferrannini at [email protected]

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