Covering 2020: The Issues, A Tip Sheet for Journalists Covering the Election

GLAAD is releasing its guide for journalists covering the 2020 election, identifying key issues of the LGBTQ community. For LGBTQ people and queer people of color, this is the most consequential election of our lifetime. 

Download the full publication in PDF format.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout have disproportionately affected people of color and LGBTQ people of color. The long overdue reckoning on racial and social inequalities and police-related violence have further sharpened demands to be heard. In a year of unprecedented danger and more uncertainty ahead, all Americans, especially those at increased risk, are watching closely to see how national, state and local candidates meet the challenges facing all of us. 

Unfortunately some threats are coming from the government itself - in a lack of effective leadership to confront the pandemic and in direct efforts to erase rights from vulnerable people. GLAAD tracks anti-LGBTQ policy and rhetoric in our Trump Accountability Project. In July 2020, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany claimed the Trump administration has a “great record” with the LGBTQ community.  The record demonstrates otherwise. 

GLAAD does not endorse or oppose candidates for elected office. GLAAD’s role as the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization is to ensure that candidates, the media and voters have information to understand LGBTQ lives and issues and to report on them in a fair, accurate and inclusive way. These are some of the issues to include in your coverage.

FAST FACTS

  • UNEMPLOYMENT: 18% of Black LGBTQ people were unemployed during COVID-19, which is above the 12% of the general population (Human Rights Campaign)
  • CRIMINAL JUSTICE: LGBTQ people make up 7.9% of all prisoners (Movement Advancement Project)
  • YOUTH: 1 in 3 LGBTQ youth physically threatened or harmed due to LGBTQ identity (The Trevor Project)
  • HOUSING: Only 30% of Black LGBTQ people are homeowners compared to the national rate of 64.3% (Freddie Mac)
  • HEALTH CARE: 29% Transgender people say they were refused health care because of gender identity (Center for American Progress)

KEY LGBTQ ISSUES OF 2020

DISCRIMINATION AND EQUALITY

Discrimination against LGBTQ people has not eased with Supreme Court rulings affirming marriage equality and the June 2020 decision expanding non-discrimination protections to LGBTQ workers. There are significant gaps in protections for employees of smaller businesses and religious institutions, and for all LGBTQ people in housing, health care, education and public accommodations across the country.

It means a landlord in Florida can evict a tenant because of her sexual orientation. A college student in Tennessee can be kicked out of school for being transgender. A doctor in Ohio can turn away a transgender man seeking a medical checkup. 27 states have no nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans.

In May of 2019, the House of Representatives passed The Equality Act (236 to 173) to ensure comprehensive federal protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, including in employment, health care, housing, education and public accommodation. The bill has not moved in the U.S. Senate, nor even come up for a vote.

RELIGIOUS EXEMPTIONS FROM FEDERAL NON-DISCRIMINATION LAWS

The Supreme Court’s ruling to expand “ministerial objection” potentially strips 1.7 million teachers and staff at religious schools from non-discrimination employment protections afforded to every other American working for public institutions and companies. The ruling means religious institutions can use so-called ministerial objection in hiring and firing any employee without consequence and on almost any grounds, including age, race, health status, faith, sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Polls show increasing skepticism of religious exemption used to justify denying services or health insurance coverage. 56% of Americans oppose religiously based service refusal to LGBTQ people, according to PRRI.

HEALTH CARE

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the devastating consequences of discrimination, systemic racism and inequality —  literally on a person’s chance of living or dying. The COVID tracking report notes Black people are dying at 2.5 times the rate of white people. Latinx people have an infection rate approximately four times that of white people. LGBTQ people also experience significant health disparities and discrimination that put them at greater risk for COVID-19. Inequities in access to education lead to lower paying jobs with fewer benefits, like paid sick leave, and to frontline industries with close contact to others. Discrimination also keeps people from seeking medical care, or from receiving quality care when they do. Nearly 1 in 4 transgender people avoided seeking health care due to fear of discrimination or mistreatment. As COVID-19 spread throughout the country in June 2020, the Trump Administration announced it was rolling back protections in the Affordable Care Act for transgender people seeking health care. 

America has also yet to reconcile with a previous pandemic still impacting the LGBTQ community —  HIV-AIDS —  and again, discrimination plays a signficant role. A 2020 GLAAD survey shows 89% of Americans believe there is a stigma around living with HIV. Only 60% believe HIV is a medical condition that can be treated, which it is, with proper medication and care. Approximately 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV today. One in 7 of them don’t know it and need testing. Black gay men account for 42% of new infections. Funding for HIV services is falling short of the need and has been used as a bargaining chip to trade away other critical services for marginalized Americans. 

Deaths from COVID-19 per 100,000 people by race or ethnicity:

  • Black or African American: 81
  • American Indian or Alaska Native: 50
  • Hispanic or Latino: 47
  • Asian: 34
  • White: 33
  • Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander: 32
  • Other: 31
  • Two or more races: 3

Agree/Disagree % of Americans who agree with the statement

  • 89% of Americans believe there still is stigma around HIV  
  • 88% of people are quick to judge those living with HIV  
  • 59% of people believe it is important to be careful around people living with HIV to avoid catching it
  • 35% of people believe those living with HIV should not have to tell others

TRANSGENDER SAFETY, ACCEPTANCE AND RESPECT

Transgender Americans, particularly women of color, are the most marginalized and often the most targeted persons in the United States. 26% of Black transgender people are unemployed. 34% report incomes at less than $10,000/year. 41% of transgender people have been homeless at some point in their lives, more than 5 times the general U.S. population. 

Most disturbingly, 2020 is on pace to far surpass previous years for record violence against transgender people, especially Black trans women. These are just the ones we know about. GLAAD research shows 85% of transgender murder victims are misidentified by police or the media releasing a birth name or pronoun the victim no longer used. Misgendering undermines the authentic identity of the person and fosters distrust of trans people, putting them at even more risk. 

Only 23 states have hate crime laws that cover sexual orientation and gender identity.

Attacks on transgender people are also evident in policies currently deployed throughout the federal government. The Trump Administration has made no move to reverse its ban on transgender military service. Polls show 71% of Americans support transgender service members. HHS has erased protections for transgender people seeking health care. HUD is actively making it harder for transgender people to access single-sex homeless shelters, placing them at extraordinary risk at other shelters or out on the street. The administration admits there is no data to support a rationale for the rule changes.

Download the full publication in PDF format.

Issues: