SACRAMENTO — A State bill that would protect gay, lesbian and transgender seniors from discrimination in long-term care facilities sits in the Assembly, and it’s unclear if legislators will act on it by September 15, the last day to vote on bills during this legislative session.
Yup. As ridiculous and absurd as it seems, it’s legal in California to discriminate against LGBT seniors in long-term care facilities, which include nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, and assisted living facilities.
The “LGBT Senior Long-Term Care Bill of Rights,” SB 219, was authored by State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and approved by the State Senate in May.
‘AGE WITH DIGNITY’
“Our LGBT seniors paved the way for our community, and they went to hell and back to ensure our community’s survival and growth,” Wiener said in a statement. “Ensuring these seniors can age with dignity and respect is the least we can do to support them, especially as they face discrimination, unique health challenges, and frequent lack of family support.”
An estimated 1.5 million gay, lesbian and bisexual people over 65 live in the nation, and that number is projected to double by 2030, according to the nonprofit group Sage, which runs a national resource center on LGBTQ aging.
VULNERABLE LGBTQ SENIORS
But long-term care facilities frequently lack trained staff and policies to discourage discrimination, according to a PBS report. That lack of support for LGBTQ seniors can lead to painful decisions for seniors about whether to hide their sexual orientation or face possible harassment by fellow elderly residents or caregivers with traditional views on sexuality and marriage.
Of the LGBTQ seniors who live in long-term care facilities, only 20 percent of them said they were comfortable being open about their sexual orientation, according to a June 2016 report by Justice in Aging, a national nonprofit legal advocacy organization, and Sage.
PROTECTIONS FOR LGBTQ SENIORS
Wiener’s bill would provide various protective measures for LGBTQ seniors:
- Require facility staff to use the resident’s preferred pronoun and name
- Prevent facilities from denying admission to a long-term care facility based on anti-LGBT attitudes of other residents
- Prevent facilities from transferring a resident within a facility or to another facility based on anti-LGBT attitudes of other residents
- Prevent facilities from evicting or involuntarily discharging a resident on the basis of a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, or HIV status
- The bill would require each facility to post a specified notice regarding discrimination alongside its current nondiscrimination policy in all places and on all materials where the nondiscrimination policy is posted.
If the bill is approved by the Assembly, it will go back to the Senate for a concurrent vote and then to the Governor, who has until October 15 to sign or veto it.