Bonamici, Merkley Introduce Bill to Improve Services for LGBT Older Adults

WASHINGTON, DC [11/07/17] – Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced legislation that aims to improve the Older Americans Act (OAA) by better serving LGBT older Americans and increasing access to culturally competent services and support programs.  

LGBT older adults face significant barriers and disparities, including fewer support services, higher poverty rates, more dangerous social isolation, and inadequate access to health care services compared to the rest of older Americans. Because of these challenges, LGBT older adults require community-specific services that are scarce and severely underfunded in every part of the country.

“Unfortunately, the same generation of LGBT people who fought for workplace fairness, marriage equality, and societal recognition, and non-discrimination are once again marginalized as they age,” said Bonamici. “In an effort to address the complex issues that arise as the number of LGBT seniors grows, I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation. Everyone deserves to live their life with dignity, and that includes our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender older adults.”

“LGBT seniors can face unique challenges and have few LGBT-specific resources to help them cope,” said Merkley. “It’s time to end that hurdle to services and pass the LGBT Elder Americans Act.”

The Ruthie and Connie LGBT Elder Americans Act will decrease the isolation faced by vulnerable and disadvantaged LGBT older adults, improve their health, and increase their access to culturally competent services and supports. The legislation permanently establishes the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, the country’s first and only resource center with the mission of improving the quality of services and supports offered to LGBT seniors. The legislation also addresses the lack of accurate information about LGBT seniors by instructing the Assistant Secretary of Aging to collect data on LGBT older adults to determine the needs of the population.   

The legislation is named after Ruthie Berman and Connie Kurtz, who have been long-time advocates for LGBT equality and continue to be champions for LGBT seniors. To learn more about Ruthie and Connie’s story, click here to view the trailer for the documentary Every Room in the House featuring their relationship and fight against discrimination.

The Ruthie and Connie LGBT Elder Americans Act is endorsed by SAGE USA, National Center for Transgender Equality, and National LGBTQ Task Force. The legislation was cosponsored in the House by Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer.

Vaune Albanese, Executive Director of Portland’s Friendly House said, “We at Friendly House are thrilled that forward-thinking Congresswoman Bonamici and Senator Merkley have introduced the Ruthie and Connie LGBT Elder Americans Act. Friendly House has been advocating for the needs of LGBT older adults for 20 years, hoping this time would come. May the days that find LGBT Americans going back into the closet as they age in order to obtain services without fear of reprisal because of their sexual orientation or gender identity be gone forever!”

You can read the text of the Ruthie and Connie LGBT Elder Americans Act here and a summary of the legislation here