2011 Williams Institute Research in Review
“This year, the federal government demonstrated its commitment to collecting and utilizing research to inform policy that impacts the lives of LGBT families, workers, service members and youth. On every major LGBT policy issue, we’re seeing the power of research in action. ”
- Brad Sears, Executive Director and Roberta A. Conroy Scholar of Law and Policy, Williams Institute, and Assistant Dean, UCLA School of Law
In 2011, we saw a deepening investment in research to inform federal policy. Research played a critical role in Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and is playing an important role in legislative and legal actions to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Further, the administration, and particularly the Census Bureau and the Department of Health and Human Services, is taking important steps towards gathering new data about the lives and experiences of LGBT people. This research will debunk myths, highlight new needs, and clarify how best to draft future policy that is responsive and inclusive of the LGBT community.
The following are research highlights from 2011:
Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
“Research has long suggested that the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ would have no negative impact on military readiness, and I’m honored that the Palm Center helped produce some of that work. Now, our job is to use research to highlight and address remaining issues such as the service of transgender troops.” – Aaron Belkin, Director, Palm Center
The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell took effect on September 20, 2011, following decades of research demonstrating that open service by LGBT people does not impair military readiness or cohesion. Over the last decade, the Palm Center has conducted and highlighted the available research on this issue. It also recently completed a chapter for a comprehensive volume on diversity in the Armed Forces on how best to execute and manage the transition from exclusion to inclusion of openly LGBT personnel. The Palm Center addresses the political, legal, regulatory, and organizational steps necessary to ensure that the implementation process goes smoothly.
Department of Justice Determines Sexual Orientation Should Receive Heightened Scrutiny
“The Department of Justice’s determination that courts should presume the unconstitutionality of laws that discriminate against LGBT people caused a shift in the Administration’s position in lawsuits testing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act, and may signal the DOJ’s position in future challenges to laws and public policies at the federal, state or local level that disadvantage LGBT people.”
- Jennifer C. Pizer, Legal Director and Arnold D. Kassoy Senior Scholar of Law, The Williams Institute
In Attorney General Eric Holder’s February 23, 2011 memo to Congress, he set out the DOJ’s position that classifications in laws and government policies based on sexual orientation should be subject to a heightened standard of constitutional review due to the long history of discrimination against LGBT people, among other factors. In subsequent briefs submitted in legal challenges to DOMA (including Golinski v. U.S. Office of Pers. Mgmt and Gill v. U.S. OPM), DOJ lawyers relied extensively upon the Williams Institute’s documentation of antigay discrimination by government.
The DOJ’s position also informed a federal court ruling in the successful challenge to “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (Log Cabin Republicans v. United States), where the court noted that the DOJ had taken the position that classifications based on sexual orientation should be subjected to heightened scrutiny, and no longer contended the policy was constitutional.
Marriage and Couples Recognition
“From the U.S. Senate to the New York, Delaware and Rhode Island legislatures, policymakers continued to rely on social science research in determining whether to extend marriage or other forms of state recognition to same-sex couples.” – M. V. Lee Badgett, Research Director, The Williams Institute, and Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
In November, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee voted a bill out of committee that would repeal DOMA. Previously, the Senate Judiciary Committee had accepted Williams Institute testimony that highlighted DOMA’s legal, financial, social and psychological burdens on same-sex couples. Further informing the proposed DOMA repeal, the Institute also published a study, “Patterns of relationship recognition by same-sex couples in the United States”, which showed that couples tend to legally formalize their relationships when given the option and have a strong preference for marriage over other forms of relationship recognition.
During the marriage debate in New York, the Williams Institute produced research estimating there would be over $100 million in new wedding spending in the first year alone, if the state extended marriage to same-sex couples. Other Institute research on the state budget impact of marriage or civil unions informed debates that led to passage of civil unions in both Delaware and Rhode Island.
U.S. Census & LGBT Demographics
“In 2011, we saw the first counts of couples who identified as spouses from a Decennial Census. We also saw a growing commitment from the Census Bureau to collecting better data about the LGBT community.” – Gary Gates, Williams Distinguished Scholar, The Williams Institute
Data from the 2010 Decennial Census was reported during the summer of 2011. It revealed that 132,000 (20%) of the nearly 650,000 same-sex couples in the U.S. identified as spouses. More than one in six same-sex couples (17%) were raising children, but childrearing was more common among couples who identified as spouses (31%) compared to unmarried partners (14%).
Williams Institute demographic research in 2011 also provided a more nuanced count of the number of LGBT people. A report authored by Gates found that 3.8% of adults self-identify as LGBT, 8.2 % have engaged in same-sex sexual behavior and 11% report same-sex attraction. These data challenged the common perception that 10% of the general population was LGBT. In addition, Gates is working with the Census Bureau to improve its practices for counting the LGBT community.
International LGBT Rights
“In her speech before the United Nations Human Rights Council, Secretary of State Clinton delivered the most expansive statement framing LGBT rights as human rights ever made by a high-ranking American official, raising the bar on American efforts at home and abroad to ensure equality for LGBT people.”
- Nan Hunter, Legal Scholarship Director, Williams Institute, and Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Graduate Programs, Georgetown University Law Center
Following Secretary Clinton’s historic speech in November, enormous opportunities exist for American leadership on efforts to expand LGBT legal protections, as countries throughout the world begin to move forward on this issue. Internationally, the Williams Institute has been particularly engaged during 2011 in the Balkans, where the Institute co-sponsored a law and policy conference on LGBT issues. In addition, former Institute scholar, Jovan Kojičić, who helped coordinate that convening, was appointed in 2011 as Adviser to the Prime Minister of Montenegro on Human Rights and Protection Against Discrimination. In his new role, he will support the government of Montenegro in fulfilling the EU accession criteria, including the establishment of non-discrimination policies and the protection of human rights.
LGBT Health Disparities
“The Department of Health and Human Services decision to collect health data on the LGBT population will allow public health professionals to understand for the first time patterns and risks for disease among LGBT people, as well as how to design the most effective interventions.”
– Ilan H. Meyer, Williams Senior Scholar of Public Policy
Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced in June that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will begin to collect and include health questions relating to sexual orientation, as well as begin a process to collect information on gender identity, under the Affordable Care Act in 2013. Such data collection has been done for other minority populations, but never before for LGBT people. The decision from HHS followed a first-time report, sponsored by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, which compiles what is known about LGBT health and outlines a future research agenda. Williams Institute senior scholars Ilan Meyer and Brad Sears contributed to the content of the report.
LGBT Homelessness & Youth
“This year, we began implementation of a first-ever federal research project that will improve services to LGBTQ homeless and at risk youth.” - Bianca Wilson, Williams Senior Scholar of Public Policy
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded a historic $13.3 million grant to the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center last year. The grant’s purpose is to increase permanency for LGBTQ children and youth at risk of long-term placement in foster care. The Williams Institute is a partner on the five-year project, which was initiated in 2011. The Institute will undertake research that assesses available services, studies the demographics of LGBT children and youth in foster care, and helps develop best practices for serving these young people. The outcomes of this project will have implications for service providers throughout the country.