Menendez Fights LGBTQ Discrimination in Housing, Health Care, Military Benefits

Menendez Fights LGBTQ Discrimination in Housing, Health Care, Military Benefits

Senator leading several legislative efforts to protect LGBTQ rights


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez today announced several initiatives to defend and expand LGBTQ rights, guarantee individuals equal access to safe housing, affordable health care, and military benefits. In addition, the Senator is helping to lead efforts to ensure that federal agencies collect accurate data on gender and sexual orientation. Such data is necessary in order to best serve the LGBTQ+’s community’s unique needs and to measure the effectiveness of federal programs.

“As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, we must remember not just how far we’ve come but how much more work there is to be done to ensure the rights of LGBTQ individuals are protected and advanced,” Sen. Menendez said. “While the Trump Administration continues to rollback protections against LGBTQ discrimination, I’ll be fighting to ensure everyone has equal access regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. The pre-Stonewall era was a dangerous time for the LGBTQ community and I won’t let the President take us back.”


Sen. Menendez is cosponsoring the Ensuring Equal Access to Shelter Act, which will prohibit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) from implementing its proposed rule stripping transgender protections at homeless shelters. This proposed rule would weaken Obama-era protections for homeless transgender individuals, allowing federally-funded shelters to deny people admission based on religious grounds. If the rule goes into effect, shelters could force transgender women to share bathrooms and sleeping quarters with men. This bill would ensure transgender individuals are able to access homeless shelters consistent with their gender identity.

The Senator also co-led a letter to HUD Secretary Ben Carson demanding the department withdraw their proposed rule.

“Homelessness and discrimination causing a lack of access to shelter have a particularly significant impact on transgender and gender non-conforming youth. Family rejection, discrimination, and violence have contributed to the disproportionately large number of LGBTQ young people who experience homelessness in the United States,” the senators wrote in the letter. “LGBTQ youth have a 120% increased risk of experiencing homelessness compared to youth who identify as heterosexual and cisgender. Nearly one in four young Black men, ages 18 to 25, identifying as LGBTQ reported homelessness in the last 12 months. This proposed rule would have a particularly harmful and disproportionate impact on transgender young people who are most in need of safe shelters.”

Earlier this month, Sen. Menendez held a roundtable with LGBTQ leaders from New Jersey where they discussed the prevalence of homelessness in the community, citing that 70 percent of transgender individuals who seek homeless shelter services face discrimination, harassment and assault.

Organizations in support of the legislation include the ACLU, Center for American Progress, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Center for Transgender Equality, National LGBTQ Task Force, National Low Income Housing Coalition and the National Women’s Law Center.

Health Care

The Senator joined his colleagues in sending a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar opposing proposed rollbacks to regulations implementing the non-discrimination sections of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). These rollbacks would allow sex discrimination in the health care system and weaken prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of gender identity, gender stereotyping and sexual orientation and would overwhelmingly impact the LGBTQ community.

“We urge you to withdraw the proposed Section 1557 regulations and protect the rights of all people in accessing health care.”


Sen. Menendez cosponsored legislation to correct the military records of service members discharged solely due to their sexual orientation to reflect the servicemembers’ honorable service and reinstate the benefits they earned.

Nearly 100,000 service members where discharged for their sexual orientation prior to the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT).  Since many of these servicemembers don’t know they can have their records corrected, the Restore Honor to Service Members Act would require the Department of Defense (DOD) to improve their outreach efforts to veterans impacted by DADT or similar discriminatory policies.

The legislation is supported by American Veterans for Equal Rights,, OutServe-SLDN and the Human Rights Campaign.

Federal Data Inclusion

In response to the Trump Administration’s efforts to roll back federal agency data collection, Sen. Menendez is cosponsoring the LGBTQ Data Inclusion Act, which would require federal surveys to collect data on sexual orientation and gender when collecting other demographic information.

New Jersey LGBTQ+ advocates brought the issue of data inclusion to the Senator’s attention during a roundtable earlier this month.

The Center for American Progress, Williams Institute, Human Rights Campaign, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, National Center for Transgender Equality and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights support the LGBTQ Data Inclusion Act.

Sen. Menendez has long supported the rights of the LGBTQ community and, earlier this month, introduced a Senate resolution recognizing June as LGBTQ Pride Month.

He is a cosponsor of the Equality Act, which would prohibit discrimination in places of public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. He also cosponsored the Student Non-Discrimination Act, a piece of legislation that would explicitly prohibit public schools from discriminating against any student on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The senator also cosponsored the Fair and Equal Housing Act, which adds sexual orientation to the Fair Housing Act’s protected classes.

Sen. Menendez voted against the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court for fear that his hard-right view would set LGBTQ rights back. The senator also voted against the nomination of Governor Sam Brownback for Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom because of his troublesome record when it comes to protecting the LGBTQ community

The senator also opposed the Trump Administration’s implementation of the ban on transgender servicemembers.

In 2017, Sen. Menendez joined an Amicus Brief in support of equal rights for the LGBTQ community and other marginalized groups in the Supreme Court case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Earlier that year, he wrote a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos opposing the DOE’s decision to withdraw guidance protecting transgender students.