History: Queers for Economic Justice

Queers for Economic Justice was a progressive non-profit organization committed to promoting economic justice in a context of sexual and gender liberation. Their goal was to challenge and change the systems that create poverty and economic injustice in our communities, and to promote an economic system that embraces sexual and gender diversity. They were committed to the principle that access to social and economic resources is a fundamental right, and we work to create social and economic equity through grassroots organizing, public education, advocacy and research. They did, and continue to do, this work because although poor queers have always been a part of both the gay rights and economic justice movements, they have been, and continue to be, largely invisible in both movements. This work will always be informed by the lived experiences and expressed needs of queer people in poverty.

In October of 1999, NY State Senator Tom Duane and SAGE/Queens Director Joseph DeFilippis convened a meeting of 60 social service agencies in NYC to discuss the impact that welfare reform had had upon lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender poor people.

As a result of that meeting, dozens of anti-poverty groups and LGBT organizations began to meet on a regular basis, to address issues of concern to poor LGBT people on welfare, and the Queer Economic Justice Network was born. Eventually, the Queer Economic Justice Network became a coalition of organizations from different movements that worked together, for the first time ever, to address a variety of poverty issues in the LGBT community.

For three years, economic justice groups such as:

  • The Coalition for the Homeless
  • Community Food Resource Center
  • The Legal Aid Society
  • Legal Services of NY
  • The Osborne Association
  • The Urban Justice Center and
  • The Welfare Rights Initiative

worked with numerous LGBT organizations, including:

  • The Audre Lorde Project
  • The LGBT Community Center
  • The Empire State Pride Agenda
  • God’s Love We Deliver
  • The Latino Commission on AIDS
  • The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
  • The NYC Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project
  • SAGE and
  • SAGE/Queens

to engage in advocacy and public education about how LGBT people were impacted by issues such as welfare reform, homelessness and the shelter system, and the Rockefeller Drug Laws.

During this work, many of the people involved in the Network decided that there was the need for an organization that could concentrate on these issues full-time, with a mission and a staff whose priority was to address the needs of LGBT people in poverty. In 2003, with a grant from The Open Society Institute, a new non-profit, Queers for Economic Justice, was born.

Queers for Economic Justice was committed to the principle that access to social and economic resources is a fundamental right, and they began their work of grassroots organizing, public education and advocacy.