A bill authored by state Senator Scott Wiener and sponsored by Equality California to protect the rights of LGBT seniors in long-term care facilities was passed Wednesday by the California state Senate in a vote of 26-12. SB 219, dubbed the LGBT Senior Long-Term Care Bill of Rights, is a major step forward in advocating for the vulnerable and often marginalized LGBT senior population in the state, and it will now head to the Assembly for their vote.
“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 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."
The bill would make illegal the discrimination that LGBT seniors can face in long-term care facilities, and raise awareness among the operators of these facilities. Specifically, the bill protects against a facility denying admission to an LGBT resident, refusing to use a resident’s preferred name or pronoun, 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.
News about the bill earlier this year raised the ire of right-wing websites, like LifeSite, where longtime anti-gay activist Peter LaBarbera penned the headline "California LGBTQ bill could force grandma to share a room with a gender-confused man in care center."
Jonathan Keller, head of the conservative group the California Family Council, said of the bill earlier this year that it would discriminate against faith-based non-profits, saying, "No religious non-profit should face criminal prosecution for designating their bathrooms by biological gender.” Keller added, "Nor should anyone be forced to use a pronoun for someone that violates that person’s strongly held religious belief that gender is not a preference, but a biological, medically observable, objective fact."
Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, counters, "We [in the LGBTQ community] stand on the shoulders of LGBTQ seniors. 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."