June is Pride Month, and to honor Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ) elders, we are focusing this blog post on the unique legal issues facing this population.
Progress has been made in protecting the legal rights of LGBTQ people and the recent landmark Supreme Court decision extending protections against workplace discrimination to LGBTQ employees is another step forward.
Unfortunately, recognition of equality under the law does not alone repair the harm done to LGBTQ elders over the course of decades. The historical lack of social acceptance and legalized discrimination have had a profound impact on LGBTQ people in the areas of healthcare, economic stability, and social and family support—all of which are key areas for successful aging. For example, one of the most important financial safety nets available to older Americans is Social Security survivor benefits. Although the surviving spouse of a same-sex married couple is now allowed to collect such benefits, this is not the case for those whose same-sex partner died before this right was recognized in 2015. Having been denied jobs or career advancement opportunities, many LGBTQ elders are left without savings and Social Security benefits that are adequate to meet their needs.
Additionally, while the steps forward are to be celebrated, the battle for full equality continues, and setbacks are a constant threat. The Department of Health and Human Services recently issued a regulation that rolled back protections for transgender patients against discrimination by doctors, hospitals, and health insurance companies. LGBTQ elders also face social isolation, discrimination, and abuse in nursing homes.
LGBTQ elders suffer the cumulative effects of discrimination in housing, employment, and healthcare, denial of equal financial protections, and stigma—all of which can lead to and compound economic insecurity and create unique needs for a population that remains largely invisible.
CCSLS is dedicated to recognizing the unique needs of LGBTQ elders and providing services in a supportive and understanding environment. We help our clients understand and assert their rights to protection against abuse, housing discrimination, and consumer exploitation. We also assist with advance planning through preparing Advance Health Care Directives and Durable Powers of Attorney. These documents are vital tools for ensuring that the wishes of the individual are honored in the event that they are not able to make health care or financial decisions in the future.
Sources: Karen I. Fredriksen-Goldsen, “The Future of LGBT+ Aging: A Blueprint for Action in Services, Policies, and Research,” Generations: Journal of the American Society on Aging 40, no. 2 (2016); Hyun-Jun Kim, et al., “A Collaboration for Health and Wellness: GRIOT Circle and Caring and Aging with Pride,” Generations: Journal of the American Society on Aging 40, no 2 (2016); Charles A. Emlet, “Social Economic, and Health Disparities Among LGBT Older Adults,” Generations: Journal of the American Society on Aging 40, no 2 (2016).