Congressman Charlie Crist (FL-13) joined Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01) and Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-22) in introducing legislation to improve the Older Americans Act (OAA) to better serve the specific needs of our LGBT seniors who 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 profound challenges, LGBT seniors require community-specific services that are scarce and severely underfunded in every part of the country.
The legislation is named after Florida residents 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. Please find full text of the bill here and a summary here. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) are introducing similar legislation in the Senate.
“The Older Americans Act provides critical support and services for our seniors. But due to institutional barriers and a lifetime of discrimination, the specific needs of LGBT seniors are not being met,” said Crist. “With inadequate access to support and healthcare services, LGBT Americans are more likely to face isolation, poverty, and poor health outcomes as they age. Proud to introduce legislation improving programs to better care for ALL seniors, paying tribute to Floridians Ruthie Berman and Connie Kurtz – trailblazers in moving equality forward!”
“When Congress passed the Older Americans Act, it was intended to help protect our seniors and ensure their access to essential health services,” said Deutch. “LGBT seniors are at even greater risk of discrimination. They face immense obstacles in their twilight years, like higher rates of poverty and social isolation. I’m especially proud to introduce this bill, named in honor of Ruthie Berman and Connie Kurtz, a South Florida couple leading the charge for LGBT seniors’ rights.”
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 aimed at improving the quality of services and supports offered to LGBT seniors. Finally, the legislation also addresses the lack of accurate information on LGBT seniors by instructing the Assistant Secretary of Aging to collect data on LGBT older adults to determine the needs of the population.
“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.”
SAGE’s CEO Michael Adams said
: “LGBT elders, whose courage in the face of danger and adversity paved the way for progress on LGBT equality in recent years, deserve to be taken care of as they age, no matter where in the United States they live. Our LGBT elder pioneers did not lead the movement birthed at Stonewall by being silent. We at SAGE follow their example by raising our voices in support of the Ruthie and Connie LGBT Elder Americans Act of 2017 and to demand justice for this growing population. SAGE applauds Senator Bennet and Representatives Bonamici, Deutch, and Crist for re-introducing this legislation and for being champions of LGBT older adults.”