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CA legislature passes bill to protect LGBTQ seniors in long-term care

LGBT senior abuse includes, but is not limited to, refusal of admittance or eviction to long-term care facilities because of sexual orientation or gender identity.
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Lesbian News

On Wednesday, the California Legislature approved a bill which would create a "Bill of Rights" for LGBTQ seniors housed in long-term care facilities. This is one step closer to protecting elderly LGBTQ individuals who rely on assistance from long-term care professionals, some providers are accused of mistreatment of residents through discrimination and homophobia.

If made into law, Senate Bill 219 (SB 219) authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by Equality California would set standards for facilities, forcing them to provide 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 Sen. 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.”

A National Senior Citizens Law Center study conducted in 2011 showed that 43-percent of elderly LGBT men and women had either witnessed abuse or were abused themselves by staff. This percentage could be higher as some mistreatment goes unreported.

The abuse includes, but is not limited to, refusal of admittance or eviction to long-term care facilities because of sexual orientation or gender identity.

It can also include being separated from a same-sex spouse or sharing a room with a homophobic or transphobic companion.

 “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.”

If made into law, SB 219 would strengthen protections against discriminations for LGBTQ seniors. Caregivers would have to use the resident’s preferred name or pronoun. Facilities would not be allowed to refuse admission to an LGBT individual or move them from one facility to another based on attitudes from 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.