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Senate Passes Bill to Protect LGBT Seniors
Migden Measure, Sponsored by EQCA, Would Train Healthcare Professionals About the Needs of LGBT Seniors to Prevent Isolation, Discrimination
SACRAMENTO – A bill that would help prevent discrimination against LGBT seniors in nursing homes and senior care facilities cleared the Senate today and will now go to the Assembly for approval.
Senate Bill 1729, authored by Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, and sponsored by Equality California, would train licensed health professionals about the unique needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) seniors. The legislation would help create safe environments that are free from bias for all older Californians. The Senate passed SB 1729 with a 24-15 vote.
“For many seniors, life in a care facility can be lonely and isolating,” said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. “This experience is often exacerbated for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender seniors when they face homophobia and bias that may restrict their access to essential services, programs and activities.”
SB 1729 would require licensed healthcare professionals who have constant interaction with seniors to participate in a training program that focuses on preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Many health professionals already receive cultural diversity training, but it does not include information and education about LGBT issues.
“This legislation will help foster a culture of respect within senior care facilities so every person who needs support feels welcome in that environment,” said Sen. Migden. “No senior should be denied the care they need or forced to face indignities because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Basic rights, such as the choice to live in the same nursing home with a partner and the right to hospital visitation are routinely denied to same-gender couples in older age, according to a 2000 study from the Policy Institute of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. The study also shows that same-gender partners lack essential protections, including Medicaid benefits and access to pensions, which typically protect the homes and retirement funds of surviving spouses who are married.
“Because of the lack of legal safety nets and lifelong experiences of marginalization in society, many LGBT seniors rely on nursing homes and other care facilities for the help they need as they age,” Kors said. “We want to ensure that once seniors enter these settings, they are treated fairly and can grow older with dignity and respect.”
Founded in 1998, Equality California celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2008, commemorating a decade of building a state of equality in California. EQCA is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots-based, statewide advocacy organization whose mission is to achieve equality and civil rights of all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Californians. www.eqca.org
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