Legislature takes bold steps to protect LGBT New Yorkers


SAGE celebrates the passage of sweeping legislation that strengthens protections for LGBT people
[New York, N.Y.] — This week, the New York state legislature passed sweeping legislation that addresses a number of key issues relevant to LGBT New Yorkers, including LGBT veteran issues, gender identity, cultural competency training, and “gay panic” defense.

Now, because of this passed legislation, LGBT veterans who received a less-than-honorable discharge due to their sexual orientation or gender identity can now access all the services and supports from the Veterans Administration in New York State — benefits to which they are otherwise entitled but barred from receiving because of their discharge status. This significant success follows the launch of SAGEVets — a statewide program to help LGBT elders who are veterans of military service to improve their access to the VA and other veteran services, as well as support their overall health and wellness — in 2014. Reports show that the U.S. military discharged around 100,000 service members for being LGBT between World War II and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011.

“For too long, LGBT veterans put their lives on the line only to suffer in silence under witch hunts and policies that took a tremendous toll,” said SAGE CEO Michael Adams. “Older LGBT veterans especially bore the burden of hiding—both before and after ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’—and have suffered because of their lack of access to critical benefits. Thanks to the leadership of Senator Brad Hoylman, older LGBT veterans will finally be able to secure the services they need and deserve,” Adams said.

Bills were also passed to restrict so-called “gay panic” “or “trans panic” as a murder defense, and mandate that all single occupancy bathrooms in state-owned or operated buildings be designated as gender neutral.

Additionally, the legislature took important steps to protect LGBT elders, by requiring LGBT competency training for employees working with older New Yorkers. It also mandates that the New York State Office for the Aging regularly update its intake forms, to include options such as sexual orientation and gender identity, furthering NYSOFA’s commitment to be an LGBT-friendly state agency.

“SAGE applauds the Legislature for acknowledging that LGBT older people have unique aging concerns and may interact differently with providers as a result of their histories and life experiences,” said Adams. “We look forward to continuing SAGE’s important work with the New York State Office for the Aging to ensure that all LGBT older New Yorkers can access necessary aging services.”

This year, the New York State legislature has passed the most LGBT-related bills in our state’s history. In January, New Yorkers celebrated the historic passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and a ban on conversion therapy. “The timing for the passage of LGBT-related legislation is fitting, given that this year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, which sparked the modern LGBT rights movement,” said Adams.

Adams continued, “SAGE congratulates Senators Brad Hoylman, Julia Salazar, and Rachel May, as well as Assembly Members Linda Rosenthal, Danny O’Donnell, Harry Bronson, and Didi Barrett, for their relentless commitment to LGBT equality. We applaud the state of New York for once again defining itself as a leader in civil rights.”

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SAGE is the world’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) older people. Founded in 1978 and headquartered in New York City, SAGE is a national organization that offers supportive services and consumer resources to LGBT older people and their caregivers. SAGE also advocates for public policy changes that address the needs of LGBT elders, provides education and technical assistance for aging providers and LGBT community organizations through its National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, and cultural competency training through SAGECare. With staff located across the country, SAGE also coordinates SAGENet, a growing network of affiliates in the United States. Learn more at sageusa.org.

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