LGBTQ+ seniors in California will be among the first eligible for critical services as they age, after the state passed a law that categorizes them as those with the “greatest need.”
On Friday, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 2719, which adds sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression to the California Department of Aging’s list of prioritized communities for programs and services.
The department administers health programs, legal assistance, employment services and benefits counseling among other services.
Authored by Democratic Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin, the law passed unanimously through the California legislature. It has the backing of Equality California and national LGBTQ+ senior advocacy organization SAGE.
“Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Californians will now have certainty that the state will continue to take into account their unique circumstances as they age, and our current elderly LGBTQ+ population will continue to benefit from having priority in the planning and implementation of programs they need to age with dignity,” said Irwin in a statement.
According to LGBTQ+ think tank the Movement Advancement Project, the more than 2.7 million LGBTQ+s in the nation are twice as likely as their heterosexual counterparts to live alone, often making them particularly vulnerable.
“LGBTQ+ elders experience high rates of social isolation and poverty as well as thin support networks, and heavily rely on home and community-based services in their later years,” said SAGE CEO Michael Adams, in praising AB 2719. “Just like all other older people, we must ensure they have access to welcoming services in their communities.”
August has seen two high-profile LGBTQ+ senior discrimination cases. On Monday, a federal appeals court ruled that an Illinois senior center could be held responsible for letting residents and staff abuse a lesbian tenant, Marsha Wetzel. In St. Louis, another lesbian couple has alleged they were denied housing because of their sexual orientation.
Advocates in California hope the new law will curb the discrimination facing queer elderly residents.
“It’s incredibly important that we ensure LGBTQ+ older adults have access to the services and support they need to maintain their health and live their lives with dignity,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur in a statement. “We’re deeply grateful to Governor Brown for signing AB 2719 and to Assemblymember Irwin for being such a strong champion for our LGBTQ+ elders.”