West Hollywood Guaranteed Income Program Excludes Straight Residents

A new government program beginning next month in Southern California testing guaranteed income payments will expressly exclude heterosexual residents. The new program is a joint venture between the City of West Hollywood and the National Council of Jewish Women. By its terms, it is only open to “LGBTQIA older adults.”

According to the city’s website, the program will run from April 2022 through September 2023 and will provide $1,000 to permitted applicants with no conditions attached. The website says that qualified applicants must live inside the city limits, be at least 50 years old, make less than $41,400 annually, and “identify as LGBTQIA.”

The city states that focusing the free cash payments on older homosexual persons living on lower incomes “aligns” with available information about the “vulnerability of this population.” The website also says that the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law has shown that older LGBT people are “financially less secure” than “non-LGBT peers.”

That discrepancy is said to be because of “lifelong barriers” for LGBT persons in accessing programs that help older people. The city also cites the poverty rate for LGBT people of 21.6 percent compared to 15.7 percent for “cisgender non-LGBT people” as evidence of the need for the free income program.

The city claims that the pilot program will be the first such program in the nation. Around $300,000 of taxpayer money is going into the funding of the program according to city documents.

The taxpayer funding will supplement $450,000 in external funding going to the program and will pay more than $86,000 to the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Guaranteed Income Research.

The Penn research group is being paid to study the effectiveness of the pilot program and was founded in part by Mayors for a Guaranteed Income. West Hollywood is part of that advocacy group that supports universal basic income initiatives around the country.

The California Supreme Court has previously ruled that the state constitution’s equal protection clause requires that state laws providing for differential treatment “on the basis of sexual orientation” must be narrowly tailored to use the least restrictive means available to achieve a stated purpose. Of course, it remains to be seen if anyone will actually challenge the West Hollywood program in court.