When Liberty Hill started deciding where to concentrate our efforts for the next three years, there were many factors to consider—the new administration in Washington; California’s role on the national stage; L.A.’s rapidly changing urban landscape and the challenges and opportunities that come with it. Ultimately we selected three areas that became our Agenda for a Just Future—stopping neighborhood oil drilling, fighting for a roof over every head and ending youth incarceration as we know it. Narrowing our overarching mission for social justice into a few concrete goals isn’t easy, but we know it’s necessary to achieve the kinds of policy wins that can make L.A. a better place for our most vulnerable and underserved communities. In each of these areas, momentum is building, support is growing and campaigns are poised to win.
Although it may not be obvious, Liberty Hill’s ongoing commitment to LGBTQ justice is also a cornerstone of the Agenda for a Just Future. When we selected our three focus areas, we considered crucial input from the participants in our Queer Youth Justice Summit, who told us that their top concerns were arrests, incarceration, housing, mental health and wellbeing.
Los Angeles arrests and detains more young people than anywhere else in the nation, and when it comes to the juvenile justice system, queer youth of color are vastly overrepresented. Nineteen percent of incarcerated youth in California identify as LGBTQ or gender nonconforming, while 90 percent of young LGBTQ people in detention centers are youth of color. During incarceration, LGBTQ youth also face an increased risk of sexual assault.
In the midst of L.A.’s housing crisis, queer communities also face greater threats of housing instability and homelessness. Thirty-five percent of homeless youth in L.A. County identify as LGBTQ, and in the face of skyrocketing costs, 33 percent of Southern California’s LGBTQ residents make less than $24,000 a year. Meanwhile neighborhood oil drilling is compromising the health of many Angelenos, especially those in low income communities of color.
LGBTQ justice has long been a hallmark of Liberty Hill’s mission, but for me and my family, it’s also a very personal issue. In fact, my wife and I were the first gay couple to get married in the city of Los Angeles 10 years ago this month, when it was first legalized. At the time, it felt like we could only go forward, but sadly our rights are once again under attack. This Pride month, it is especially important to acknowledge the fights for LGBTQ rights happening at the intersections of many social justice struggles, and salute the organizers and activists building a more just and inclusive world. As we push forward in our campaigns around youth justice, housing justice and environmental justice, Liberty Hill stands with the LGBTQ individuals who are leading these fights.
Shane Murphy Goldsmith