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NY War Room: ICYMI – Long Island LGBTQ Advocate Calls Out Republican Silence on Ruling Leaving LGBTQ Long Islanders Without Access to Health Care

July 11, 2023

New York, NY – In case you missed it, a recent op-ed by David Kilmnick, the president and founder of the New York LGBT Network, has called attention to Long Island Republicans’ ignorance of attacks against the LGBTQ+ community.

With the recent decision by a federal judge in Braidwood Management v. Becerra striking down access to PrEP under the Affordable Care Act, Long Islanders’ care is under attack. Instead of representing their constituents, Reps. George Santos, Anthony D’Esposito, and Nick LaLota “voted for a default plan that could have put 2.3 million New Yorkers at risk of losing access to Medicaid” and “fell in line with the House leadership’s devastating proposal.”

“Long Island Republicans continue to turn their backs on New Yorkers by remaining silent on regressive policies as anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is being passed across the country,” HMP New York Press Secretary Alisha Heng said. “Their complete disregard for access to crucial health care exposes their true colors, and HMP will ensure they are voted out in 2024.”

Read the full Op-Ed below.

“Each June, the LGBTQ+ community proudly celebrates our strength, unity and visibility during Pride Month. From Hewlett to the Hamptons, Long Islanders joined their LGBTQ+ neighbors once again last month to honor our historic struggle for equality.

As usual, Long Island and New York showed up for Pride, but for many in our community, this year felt different.

A wave of bills targeting our rights have garnered widespread attention and outrage, sparking a dangerous rise in anti-LGBTQ+ incidents locally and nationally. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, nearly 500 such bills have been introduced in state legislatures so far this year.

In contrast, New York leaders are taking meaningful action on behalf of our community. Flanked by queer icons and elected officials from across the state, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation into law that will safeguard protections for LGBTQ+ New Yorkers – just moments before marching in one of the world’s largest Pride celebrations.

While state leaders remain steadfast in their support, a largely unknown fight over our rights is currently playing out in federal courts, and it could have a devastating impact on the health of LGBTQ+ people here on Long Island.

In March, a decision by a federal judge in Texas, in Braidwood Management v. Becerra, ripped away no-cost preventive health care from over 150 million Americans. If the decision is allowed to stand, health insurers will no longer be required to cover preventive screenings for serious conditions including HIV, cancer and heart disease.

In particular, the decision struck down access to PrEP, a life-saving medication that reduces the risk of contracting HIV from sex by 99 percent. PrEP is a key prevention strategy for ending the HIV epidemic in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Siding with the plaintiffs — a group of anti-LGBTQ+ business owners — the judge found that the Affordable Care Act’s coverage of PrEP violates religious freedom, which will allow individual insurers to deny access to it.

The Braidwood ruling came a month before the entire Long Island congressional delegation voted for a default plan that could have put 2.3 million New Yorkers at risk of losing access to Medicaid.

Both the Braidwood decision and the nation’s near-default on its debt make clear that Long Islanders’ care is under attack. Unfortunately, when given the chance to show independence and protect vital health services, U.S. Reps. George Santos, Anthony D’Esposito, Nick LaLota and Andrew Garbarino instead fell in line with the House leadership’s devastating proposal.

This is a critical moment for the LGBTQ+ community, and the changes brought on by Braidwood present an existential crisis. Our community is disproportionately affected by HIV infections. Researchers at the Yale School of Public Health found that the ruling could result in more than 2,000 entirely preventable HIV infections in the next year.

Here on Long Island, access to PrEP is crucial. Recent reports show that Nassau and Suffolk counties have the highest suburban rates of HIV infection in the state. A staggering 5,300 Long Islanders live with an HIV/AIDS diagnosis.

If the Braidwood ruling is allowed to stand, many LGBTQ+ Long Islanders, especially those struggling to make ends meet, people of color and people with disabilities, will instead decide to forgo basic preventive services like PrEP simply because they can no longer afford them. While 66 percent of eligible white people in America are prescribed PrEP, just 16 percent of eligible Hispanics and 9 percent of eligible Blacks are prescribed the lifesaving drug. The Braidwood ruling will inevitably worsen existing disparities in New York and on Long Island.

Legal experts have highlighted that the Braidwood case was brought on by opponents of the ACA. Despite 79 percent of Americans supporting no-cost preventive care, Republicans in Congress continue to wage a war against the ACA, even as 214,000 New Yorkers rely on it.

On Long Island, we need Santos, D’Esposito, Garbarino and LaLota to stand up against this dangerous and deeply unpopular ruling. If they don’t, LGBTQ+ Long Islanders and our families will have to fight for our right to access life-saving health care next Pride Month.”