By Kate Ryan
NEW YORK, Sept 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A unique U.S. credit union opening next year will give priority to the needs of LGBT+ customers amid controversy over a national effort to ensure financial institutions do not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Superbia Credit Union of Michigan will provide loans and other financial services that LGBT+ clients may not otherwise obtain, according to its founder.
More than half of LGBT+ Americans live in states without legal protection from discrimination when they seek credit or loans from a bank or credit union. Michigan is one of those states.
Research published by Iowa State University earlier this year found same-sex couples were 73% more likely to be turned down for a mortgage than were same-sex couples.
"Our families, lives and financial journeys are vast and unique," said the Superbia website. "The products we need and how we are communicated with should reflect our community, using our values - as we determine."
Legislation to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the landmark federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 banning discrimination was approved by the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives in May.
It still must be considered by the Republican-controlled Senate, where it is expected to face opposition and an uphill battle.
The Superbia credit union, led by founder Myles Meyers, won approval to proceed from Michigan state officials on Monday.
Among its services, it plans to offer loans for the medical expenses of transgender people.
"Despite the stereotypes of gay affluence, LGBT people are disproportionately poor," said Lyle Matthew Kan, vice president of research and communications at Funding for LGBT Issues, a network that awards funds to LGBT+ organizations.
"LGBT people are nearly twice as likely to be unemployed as non-LGBT individuals," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "More funding to address the economic opportunity of LGBT people is desperately needed."
LGBT+ organizations are dramatically underfunded, getting only 28 cents of every $100 awarded by U.S. foundations in 2017, according to the Funding network.
Meyers began his campaign to launch Superbia on an online crowdfunding site last year, pledging to donate up to 30% of its profits to LGBT+ organizations and community needs.
"We advance our rights by reinvesting every dollar of profit back into our community," Meyers wrote.
(Reporting by Kate Ryan, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst
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