Senate Passes Senator Wiener’s LGBT Seniors Bill of Rights for Long-Term Care Facilities

May 31, 2017

Sacramento –  Today the California Senate passed SB 219, authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by Equality California. SB 219 is the LGBT Senior Long-Term Care Bill of Rights for seniors in long-term care facilities. The bill passed by a vote of 26-12, and will now move to the Assembly for consideration.

SB 219 protects LGBT seniors from discrimination in long-term care facilities, such as a facility 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-LGBT attitudes of other residents, or evicting or involuntarily discharging a resident from a facility, on the basis of a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, or HIV status.  In addition, the bill requires that all long-term care facilities post a notice regarding this form of discrimination where its current non-discrimination policy is posted.

“Our LGBT seniors paved the way for our community, and they went to hell and back to ensure our community's survival and growth,” said Senator Wiener. “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.”

LGBT seniors face unique challenges and are uniquely vulnerable in long-term care facilities. LGBT seniors are less likely to have adult children to look out for them and more likely to have lost a significant part of their social network during the HIV/AIDS epidemic. LGBT seniors have reported going back into the closet upon entering long-term care, due to discrimination and ignorance by facility staff and other residents, and transgender seniors, in particular, face significant discrimination. Seniors living with HIV face health challenges requiring specific and focused attention.

Equality California is sponsoring SB 219, and Assemblymembers David Chiu (D-San Francisco) and Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona) are co-authors. The bill is also supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, Justice in Aging, the National Association of Social Workers, National Center for Transgender Equality, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Transgender Law Center, Alzheimer’s Orange County and others.

“We stand on the shoulders of LGBTQ seniors,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California. “These are the people who have fought discrimination their whole lives and fought the battles for today's strong civil rights protections for LGBTQ Californians. We owe it to them to ensure that they are treated with dignity and respect in long term care facilities.”

SB 219 overcame radical right-wing opposition to the bill, including scare tactics mirroring the arguments used against transgender bathroom access, including that “perpetrators” could “prey upon unsuspecting, vulnerable victims.” The Pacific Justice Institute claimed that SB 219 could turn long-term care facilities into bordellos. One article on the website LifeSite refused to use the word transgender, instead opting for “gender-confused” and quoted an organization that says Democrats in Sacramento working to pass SB 219 and other LGBT rights bills believe in “sexual anarchy.”