Groundbreaking legislation – as recommended by the LGBT Aging Task Force – will prohibit discrimination against LGBT seniors residing in long-term care facilities.

San Francisco – At next Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisors Scott Wiener and David Campos will introduce the “LGBT Long-Term Care Facility Residents’ Bill of Rights.” The ordinance originated as a recommendation from the LGBT Aging Task Force’s policy report, “LGBT Aging at the Golden Gate,” and will make it illegal to discriminate against patients in long-term care facilities based on their sexual orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression or HIV status.  The legislation spells out what constitutes discrimination against LGBT seniors in these facilities.

“Our LGBT seniors are our community’s pioneers,” said Supervisor Wiener. “These are the people who made our community what it is and fought on the front line for decades.  As they age, we all have a responsibility to make sure they can live and thrive with dignity and respect.  We need to ensure that senior facilities, including long-term care facilities, are culturally competent to address the unique needs of LGBT seniors. The groundbreaking legislation will help move us in that direction by ensuring that LGBT seniors receive fair and culturally competent treatment in long-term care facilities.”


LGBT seniors are a particularly vulnerable population due to lifelong experiences of marginalization that place them at greater risk of isolation, homelessness, poverty, and premature institutionalization.  As LGBT seniors enter long-term care facilities, staff, at times, lack protocols for dealing with aging LGBT populations.


While discrimination against LGBT seniors is prohibited under existing State law, ample evidence shows that it remains a significant problem.  According to a 2011 study “Stories from the Field; LGBT Older Adults in Long-Term Care Facilities,” published by the National Senior Citizens Law Center, 89% of respondents indicated that they believe caretakers would discriminate against them for being LGBT; 43% personally witnessed or experienced mistreatment of LGBT seniors.


“The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) is thrilled that the Board of Supervisors is taking on this important issue,” said Kate Kendell, Executive Director at NCLR. “For decades, NCLR has worked on elder issues, and through cases across the country, we’ve seen what happens when LGBT seniors are mistreated in care facilities.  This proposed ordinance kicks off a vital national conversation on both the importance of protecting some of our most vulnerable LGBT seniors and how to provide dignified and competent care.”


The proposed ordinance will amend the Police Code to prohibit discrimination against residents in long-term care facilities in San Francisco on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status.  In addition, it will provide aggrieved persons with the right to seek investigation and mediation by the Human Rights Commission. Importantly, it will also create a private right of action and impose treble damages on violators.


“This first-in-the-nation bill was a community effort from day one, and it’s a major step towards protecting some of the most vulnerable LGBT seniors,” said Daniel Redman, who served as a member of the LGBT Aging Task Force. “The ordinance went through a rigorous community review process.  A dozen LGBT elder and long-term care advocacy groups and activists reviewed and provided vital feedback.  The Task Force was established to recommend innovative new laws, and this is just the first of many to come.”


The ordinance specifies a number of requirements that long-term care facilities must fulfill when caring for LGBT or HIV-positive residents. These include, for example:

  • Requiring facilities to designate an LGBT liaison, who undergoes appropriate periodic training;
  • Requiring facilities to respect residents’ wishes to be addressed in the pronoun of their choice;
  • Forbidding the denial of a request by two residents to share a room and forbidding room reassignment where one resident complains about another resident’s sexual orientation or gender identity;
  • Requiring access to appropriate medical care specific to an LGBT resident’s needs;
  • Requiring that residents be allowed to use restrooms available to other residents of the same gender identity.

“The ordinance speaks directly and forcefully to one of the most glaring and most poignant problems facing LGBT seniors in San Francisco,” said Tom Nolan of the LGBT Seniors Program at the San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services. “The LGBT Aging Policy Task Force strongly supports this proposal and urges the Mayor and Board Members to give this legislation serious consideration and support both.”


The ordinance also imposes certain additional requirements around record keeping, confidentiality, privacy, and designating a staff member as an LGBT liaison. 


“Thank you to the LGBT Senior Task force for bringing these discriminations to our attention,” said Supervisor David Campos, co-sponsor of the legislation. “Our LGBT brothers and sisters persevered through decades of marginalization, and deserve to enjoy their later years with dignity and respect. This is common sense legislation that takes narrow mindedness and moral policing out of healthcare and ensures that the Senior LGBT community receives that rights they fought so hard for.”


The legislation likely will be heard in committee and at the full Board of Supervisors in March or April.

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