Over 120 LGBT elders, allies, affiliate leaders and activists from across the nation descended upon Washington, D.C. for SAGE’s inaugural National Day of Advocacy[Washington, D.C.] – Yesterday, just as pro-equality leaders and LGBT activists across the country were celebrating the re-introduction of the historic Equality Act, SAGE held its first-ever National Day of Advocacy on Capitol Hill. The event mobilized more than 120 SAGE constituents and staff nationwide, from 20 states and Puerto Rico, to meet with dozens of Members of Congress and their staffs, including Senator Cory Booker, to share personal stories and fight for the rights of LGBT elders. Booker declared, “I want to thank SAGE – you guys rock. Thank you for all of the work you are doing and let’s continue the advocacy so that one day we can be a nation where everyone is equal.”
Today a vital, groundbreaking piece of legislation designed to improve LGBT elders’ access to services, known as the Ruthie and Connie LGBT Elder Americans Act, was re-introduced by U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici, along with her colleagues Ted Deutch and Charlie Crist. The bill, championed by SAGE, would ensure that LGBT elders and older people living with HIV have improved access to 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.
“This is a triumphant moment. We are so proud to be a part of this truly historic week for LGBT elders and the LGBT community at large,” said SAGE CEO Michael Adams. “On top of a tremendously successful National Day of Advocacy, when we joined forces with hundreds of our LGBT pioneers, we also celebrated the introduction of game-changing legislation that will have a major impact on LGBT elders and those living with HIV for years to come. Through the National Day of Advocacy and SAGE’s “Still Out in Front: 50 Years of Pride” campaign, we will continue to fight to better protect our community’s trailblazers.”
The National Day of Advocacy concluded with a reception, generously funded by Gilead Sciences, Inc., where LGBT elders mingled with Washington D.C. supporters and members of Congress. In addition to SAGE CEO Michael Adams, speakers included U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici, lesbian activist and SAGE constituent Connie Berman, Executive Director of Community Engagement at Gilead Sciences Inc., Douglas Brooks, and HIV/AIDS activist and SAGE constituent Jeff Mills.
In a moving speech by Ruthie Berman, namesake of this week’s vital LGBT aging bill, Berman told the audience, “I am beyond proud tonight to be here in this room with SAGE, and leaders in my government. I didn’t come out until I was 40, when I fell in love with Connie. I wish you all the relationship that I had with my beloved Connie. It is extraordinary to come to this point and know that there’s still work to be done. SAGE, you are holding up this country, with the work that you do.”
“Congress is ready to take action to protect your rights,” said U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici at the evening reception. “I’m going to introduce the Ruthie and Connie LGBT Elder Americans Act, and I’m really proud of my colleague, Representative David Cicilline, for leading the introduction of the Equality Act today. Ruthie, our hearts are broken that Connie is not with us. I know she would be so proud of you for your continued advocacy. We can honor your legacy of advocacy by passing this bill.”
Also yesterday, SAGE launched an online advocacy campaign, which has already generated nearly 300 letters to members of Congress. All are encouraged to participate by sending letters to their representatives at sageusa.org/still-out.
SAGE is the country’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.