Sacramento–California Governor Jerry Brown today signed a bill that creates a “bill of rights” for LGBTQ seniors in long-term care. Senate Bill (SB) 219, authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by Equality California, will help protect seniors from discrimination or mistreatment in long-term care facilities.
“Our LGBT seniors built the modern LGBT community and led the fight for so many of the rights our community takes for granted today,” said Sen. Wiener. It is our duty to make sure they can age with the dignity and respect they deserve. I want to thank Governor Brown for joining our coalition in supporting this bill, which will make a real difference in people’s lives. The LGBT Senior Bill of Rights is an important step in our fight to ensure all people are treated equally regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
In a 2011 study of LGBTQ seniors and family members released by the National Senior Citizens Law Center, 43 percent had either been abused by caretakers themselves or witnessed that abuse. This incidence of maltreatment is likely far higher, as many cases of discrimination go undocumented. This abuse can take many forms, including being turned away or evicted from a long-term care facility based on sexual orientation or gender identity. After a lifetime of bullying by schoolmates, co-workers and society at large, some LGBTQ seniors are forced to share a room with homophobic or transphobic companions. Same-sex couples are sometimes separated.
“LGBTQ seniors fought some of the first and most difficult battles for LGBTQ civil rights and deserve our protection,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California. “Many of our elders have no children or other family members to care for them and are especially vulnerable to abuse or neglect in long-term care. SB 219 will help ensure that care facilities provide culturally-competent care.”
SB 219 strengthens protections for LGBTQ seniors living in long-term care facilities against discrimination, such as refusing to use a resident’s preferred name or pronoun, denying admission to a long-term care facility, transferring a resident within a facility or to another facility based on anti-LGBT attitudes of other residents, or evicting or involuntarily discharging a resident from a facility on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or HIV status.
SB 219 was sponsored by Equality California and supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, APLA Health, California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, Justice in Aging, FORGE, the California chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Center for Transgender Equality, San Francisco Human Rights Commission, the Source LGBT + Center, and the Transgender Law Center.
Equality California is the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization. We bring the voices of LGBTQ people and allies to institutions of power in California and across the United States, striving to create a world that is healthy, just, and fully equal for all LGBTQ people. We advance civil rights and social justice by inspiring, advocating and mobilizing through an inclusive movement that works tirelessly on behalf of those we serve. www.eqca.org