LGBTQ Quality of Life Commission Sends Recommendations to Council

Commission issues three wishes, two that will need money

CM Jimmy Flannigan at a press conference prior to the LGBTQ Quality of Life Commission's first meeting in June
CM Jimmy Flannigan at a press conference prior to the LGBTQ Quality of Life Commission's first meeting in June (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Austin’s LGBTQ Quality of Life Commission has passed its first set of recommendations to City Council. During their Aug. 15 meeting, commissioners authored three recommendations covering a wide range of issues, but in light of recent city budget discussions, money (or a lack thereof) may impede their efforts. As a prerequisite for future work and funding for larger programs, commissioners have requested an allocation of funds to conduct an LGBTQ Quality of Life study, similar to studies carried out for the city’s Latino, Asian, and black communities. The proposed study should evaluate LGBTQ-owned businesses, hate crimes, job discrimination, health care access, and rates of unemployment and homelessness affecting the city’s queer and trans populations. Charles Loosen, who oversees the LGBTQ Commission for the city, acknowledged that funding is tight for the upcoming fiscal year, but said it’s important to have this request on record to “get the ball rolling.”

The commission is also asking Council to approve funding for a pilot PrEP program to help improve residents access to the blue pill, which, when taken correctly, is 99% effective in blocking the transmission of HIV. Considering the city manager’s current budget proposal, commissioners have highlighted Animal Services’ request for an additional $135,000 to cover drugs and medical supplies. Loosen said the commission is “asking Council to fund PrEP access in an equitable manner,” in reference to a 2016 budget decision that denied PrEP funding but allocated $300,000 to a heartworm initiative for shelter dogs.

At least the final request has nothing to do with money. It’s a bit more of a symbolic gesture: Vice Chair Paula Buls has encouraged Council to voice its support for transgender citizens in light of recent state and federal attacks on queer and trans communities. (More on that in this week’s News feature, "Who We Are.") The official recommendation acknowledges Austin as an equity leader in LGBTQ rights, but asks leaders to “affirm the value and human dignity of all citizens regardless of gender identity and expression,” and fight for the “rights, dignity, and respect of all its citizens.”

Loosen said he isn’t certain when Council will discuss the recommendations, but predicted some movement at their Thursday meeting.

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LGBTQ Quality of Life Commission, Paula Buls, Charles Loosen

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