NewYorkUniversity
LawReview
Current Issue

Volume 93, Number 6

December 2018

Queering the Welfare State: Paradigmatic Heteronormativity After Obergefell

Matt J. Barnett

Although lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer people in the United States of America have experienced significant changes in their legal rights over the previous decade, they are still disproportionately likely to live in poverty. The Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges granted LGBQ individuals access to the institution of marriage and the attendant social benefits, but the safety net is still full of holes for low-income LGBQ individuals because of deeply rooted heteronormativity in the administration of welfare. Using three facially neutral examples— proof-of-paternity requirements for welfare recipients, work requirements for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Medicaid programs, and barriers to state support for low-income LGBQ youth experiencing homelessness—this Note elucidates and indicts enduring paradigms of heteronormativity in the welfare state. This Note also offers prescriptive solutions, advocating for the adoption of the perennial legislative proposal known as the “Equality Act” as well as state and federal executive action to ease the burdens on LGBQ welfare recipients in the near term.