May 16, 2019
The leaders and activists of decades past bulldozed for us a path toward equality. Now, we need to fight for their absolute right to be treated with respect and dignity.
National Honor Our LGBT Elders Day is a day to celebrate the trailblazers in our movement. But it’s also a day to call attention to some of the challenges still facing our community as we age, and to shine a light on the vulnerable position LGBT seniors sometimes find themselves in when they require care.
Those who provide care for the aging are, as a whole, among the most compassionate and generous people, but often they lack the resources and education to provide appropriate and sensitive care to LGBT elders. But we are making progress toward that goal.
Programs such as the LGBT Aging Project at Fenway Health in Massachusetts, Getting it Right at Connecticut Community Care, and the nationwide SAGECare program have been on the ground providing cultural competency training to ensure that LGBT elders have access to safe and respectful care. In fact, it is now mandatory in Massachusetts for all state-funded or state-licensed elder service providers to be trained in LGBT cultural competency.
But we must remain vigilant. We continue to see situations where older LGBT adults relying on others for care must make an unconscionable choice between going back into the closet or suffering from discrimination and harassment.
GLAD recently helped resolve a case of discrimination in a long-term residential facility. A man was not being allowed to take his partner out for walks because they are a gay couple. The facility changed their discriminatory policy, but only after being threatened with litigation.
In another recent example of discrimination, a judge in Missouri incorrectly decided that federal anti-discrimination laws do not protect a married lesbian couple who were denied the protection of the Fair Housing Act when a senior housing community refused to allow them to move into their new home because of their sexual orientation. Our friends at the National Center for Lesbian Rights are appealing the decision.
We are hopeful that our federal lawmakers will soon pass the Equality Act to ensure that LGBT elders, along with everyone in our community, will have explicit protections from discrimination across the country. Meanwhile, we will continue to utilize the tools of litigation and legislation to fight for equality.
We are here to fight for LGBT elders. If you or someone you love is experiencing exclusion, harassment, or abuse because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, please contact GLAD Answers at 800-455-GLAD.
Chris Erchull is Staff Attorney at GLAD.