This spring, policymakers in Washington, D.C. are focusing attention on improving the overall well-being of gay and transgender youth. On March 8, Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced the Safe Schools Improvement Act to combat the devastating effects of school bullying on a wide range of students, including those who are known or are perceived to be gay or transgender. Just a few days later, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the nation’s schools. That same week, the White House directed a big spotlight on many of these issues with its Conference on Bullying Prevention.
And now, for the first time ever, LGBT youth are specifically mentioned in a Senate bill to combat overall youth homelessness. Yesterday Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) introduced Reconnecting Youth to Prevent Homelessness Act—a bill designed to help homeless youth rejoin their families and escape life on the streets.
Section 106 of the bill calls for a “demonstration project for improving family relationships and reducing homelessness for LGBT youth.” It calls on the secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a demonstration project that develops programs that improve family relationships and reduce homelessness for LGBT youth. A growing body of research from the Family Acceptance Project, or FAP, suggests that this family-centered approach is one of the best ways to support gay and transgender homeless youth, which is a growing problem facing our nation.
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