This release originally appeared on the SAGE website on March 26, 2020.
[New York, NY] Today, the Older Americans Act reauthorization was signed into law with provisions that will help ensure that LGBT elders get the services and support they need to remain independent. SAGE, the world’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT older people, has spent years working with our allies in Congress, the LGBT community, and the aging sector to push for this inclusion and celebrates this victory for the LGBT community. This legislation is especially timely given the sobering risks LGBT elders face during the current COVID-19 pandemic and their heightened need for inclusive services and care.
The reauthorization will require that state and local departments of aging (state units on aging and area agencies on aging) be held accountable for undertaking outreach to LGBT older people who need services in their communities. It will also hold them responsible for engaging in both data collection and reporting on the needs of LGBT older people and whether they are meeting those needs.
“At a time when LGBT older people are literally at the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis, there has never been a more important time than now to make federally-funded elder services LGBT-inclusive,” said SAGE CEO Michael Adams. “Giving LGBT elders, many of whom are socially isolated and health-compromised, the same access to services as all older Americans will save lives,” Adams added.
“Seniors have served our communities for decades and need our support now more than ever,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, Chair of the Education and Labor Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services. “Strengthening programs that benefit our seniors has long been one of my top priorities, and I’m glad this significant update I led to the Older Americans Act is now law. It will provide a strong foundation to help meet the needs of seniors during this pandemic and beyond. I’m grateful that this updated bipartisan law will support Meals on Wheels, fight elder abuse, and help to address social isolation. We achieved important victories for LGBT seniors in this bill, and I will keep fighting with SAGE to fully meet their needs. At this time in our country, it’s especially important that we care for those who led the way before us.”
“SAGE is deeply grateful to our partners in Congress, including Reps. Bonamici, Haaland and Scott, and Senators Casey, Murkowski and Bennet and others who have worked so hard for this breakthrough,” said Adams. “Most importantly, today’s victory belongs to our LGBT elder pioneers, who have struggled for decades for this kind of progress.”
Because the Trump administration has consistently aimed to erode LGBT people’s protections, there is a lot of work remaining to protect the lives and well-being of older LGBT people in this country. SAGE, True Colors United and Family Equality joined forces and filed suit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for its unlawful November 2019 announcement that it would stop enforcing anti-discrimination protections that forbid federal grantees from denying services to, or otherwise discriminating against, LGBT individuals and others. The administration’s unlawful action endangers already vulnerable populations, especially as the country confronts the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is tragically ironic that, even as SAGE celebrates Congress for having the bipartisan wisdom to reauthorize an LGBT-inclusive Older Americans Act, we are forced to sue the Trump administration for authorizing federal grantees to discriminate against LGBT elders at will,” said Adams.
SAGE is the country’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) older people. Founded in 1978 and headquartered in New York City, SAGE is a national organization that offers supportive services and consumer resources to LGBT older people and their caregivers. SAGE also advocates for public policy changes that address the needs of LGBT elders, provides education and technical assistance for aging providers and LGBT community organizations through its National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, and cultural competency training through SAGECare. With staff located across the country, SAGE also coordinates SAGENet, a growing network of affiliates in the United States. Learn more at sageusa.org.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.