Cyndi Lauper appeared before the Senate Appropriations committee on Wednesday to advocate for the protection of homeless LGBT youth.
The “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” singer, who founded the True Colors Fund in 2008 to focus on ending LGBT youth homelessness, told the committee that listening to young people’s stories about living on the street “changed me.”
“Basically, the kids come out and they get thrown out,” Lauper told the panel, according to ABC News. “Truth is, they didn’t choose their identity. You know, it’s like you choosing the color of your eyes. You know, you’re born that way.”
Lauper’s remarks to the committee came in the wake of the Senate’s decision not to reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, which included specific non-discrimination policies designed to protect homeless LGBT youth from being turned away from shelters. The measure received 56 votes from 46 Democrats and ten Republicans, falling just short of the 60 votes required for passage.
In a statement issued shortly after the ruling, Lauper blamed the senators for caving to “conservative religious groups” with their vote against the amendment.
“Unfortunately, 43 senators put the objections of conservative religious groups ahead of the lives of our nation’s most vulnerable youth,” Lauper said. “Every day, homeless gay and transgender youth experience rejection and discrimination from their families, communities, and the providers who are supposed to help them. Today, 43 senators added their names to the group of people who think that it is acceptable to throw away the up to 40% of homeless youth who identify as LGBT.”
The singer, who reportedly ran away from home at the age of 17 after her stepfather allegedly threatened to rape her, said during the hearing that parents should practice tolerance with their children.
“If it’s a faith issue, I implore you not to pray to God to change your kid,” Lauper said. “Pray to God to change your heart.”
Lauper founded the True Colors Fund in 2008 to end LGBT youth homelessness. On Wednesday, the Fund organized the country’s first #40toNoneDay, a day of advocacy “to provide supporters with a national platform to discuss LGBT youth homelessness” and methods to end it.