The bill would improve aging supports for older LGBTQI+ people nationwide
[Washington, D.C.] – In a head start to Pride and in recognition of Older Americans Month, today, U.S. Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Becca Balint (D-VT), and Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D-FL), re-introduced the Ruthie and Connie LGBTQI+ Elder Americans Act.
This critical LGBTQ+ aging bill, named after lesbian activists Ruthie Berman and her late wife Connie Kurtz, would be a significant step forward in protecting older LGBTQ+ people, who face higher rates of poverty, acute social isolation, and severe challenges accessing culturally competent services and supports. If passed, it would improve access for LGBTQ+ elders and older people living with HIV seeking aging services and supports under the Older Americans Act, the country’s largest vehicle for funding and delivering services to older people in the U.S.
“It is unacceptable that decades of discrimination have left many LGBTQI+ seniors without the support and resources they need to stay healthy as they age,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. “I’m grateful for Ruthie and Connie’s advocacy on behalf of LGBTQI+ seniors, and I’m glad to lead this legislation in their honor so everyone can access the care and services they need without discrimination.”
“All older people, including LGBTQ+ older people, deserve to be able to age in their community, with necessary services and supports,” said SAGE CEO Michael Adams. “We commend Representatives Bonamici, Balint, and Frost on reintroducing the Ruthie and Connie LGBTQI+ Elder Americans Act. And we honor the work of our many LGBTQ+ pioneers, like Ruthie Berman and her late wife Connie Kurtz, whose tireless advocacy made this bill a reality. Continued Adams, “We eagerly anticipate working alongside her and other LGBTQ+ trailblazers nationwide to pass this bill.”
Ruthie Berman, 89, is a former New Yorker who now resides in Florida. She and her wife, Connie Kurtz, who passed away in 2018, successfully sued the New York Board of Education for domestic partner benefits in 1994. The couple went on to win many more achievements as LGBTQ+ activists.
“It is crucial to recognize the significant obstacles faced by older LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly transgender elders, when it comes to accessing aging services and support,” said 89-year-old Ruthie Berman, lesbian activist and namesake of the bill. “It is important not to overlook the fact that these remarkable LGBTQ+ elders dedicated a major portion of their lives advocating for, uplifting, and contributing to the development of our country.” Continued Berman, “I know my beloved Connie would be proud of our continued fight – let’s make sure this legislation is passed so we can all age with the dignity and respect we all deserve.”
A fact sheet about the legislation can be found here, and the text of the legislation can be found here.
SAGE is the world’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ+) older people. Founded in 1978 and headquartered in New York City, SAGE offers supportive services and consumer resources to LGBTQ+ older people and their caregivers. SAGE also advocates for public policy changes that address the needs of LGBTQ+ elders, provides education and technical assistance for aging providers and LGBTQ+ community organizations through its National Resource Center on LGBTQ+ Aging, and cultural competency training through SAGECare. Learn more at sageusa.org.