The California Legislature Wednesday approved a bill that would create 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, would help protect seniors from discrimination or mistreatment in long-term care facilities and provide standards for culturally-competent care.
“These LGBT seniors are the pioneers who fought for and won the rights and freedoms so many of us enjoy today,” said Wiener. “Supporting these heroes is a moral imperative, especially as they face discrimination, invisibility, unique health challenges, and frequent lack of family support. The LGBT Seniors Bill of Rights will help our elders age with the dignity and respect they have earned a hundred times over.”
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.
“After struggling to come out at a time when same-sex conduct was still criminalized and fighting the first and most difficult battles for LGBTQ civil rights, discrimination in long term care is forcing many LGBTQ seniors back into the closet,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California. “SB 219 would help protect LGBTQ seniors when they’re at their most vulnerable, and help ensure that care facilities provide culturally-competent care.”
SB 219 would strengthen 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-LGBTQ 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 is sponsored by Equality California and supported by AARP, 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.