Religious Discrimination Puts Millions of LGBT Elders at Risk


In advance of Supreme Court ruling, national advocacy campaign spotlights growing threat

[NEW YORK, NY] Today, in tandem with National Honor Our LGBT Elders Day, SAGE launched “Care Can’t Wait,” a campaign to enlist supporters to stand in support of LGBT elders whose care and livelihoods would be threatened by a license to discriminate.

SAGE is mobilizing this campaign as the country awaits a much-anticipated Supreme Court ruling on Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In the case, the Trump administration is arguing that a baker’s religious beliefs create a constitutional right to refuse to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple. A ruling that gives businesses a license to discriminate based on religious preference would have especially devastating consequences for older LGBT people, as the vast majority of elder care providers are religiously affiliated organizations. Earlier this year, the Trump administration also established the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division at the Department of Health & Human Services to shield medical providers who deny care based on religious or moral beliefs.

According to Dignity Denied, a policy report released by SAGE, the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), and Columbia Law School’s Public Rights/Private Conscience Project, 85 percent of nonprofit continuing-care retirement communities are affiliated with a religious institution. A new AARP survey finds that roughly half of LGBT adults currently fear discrimination in health care as they age.

“If the Trump administration succeeds in its efforts to enshrine a religious right to discriminate – either by an anti-LGBT Supreme Court decision or with the slew of ‘religious conscience’ policies that are advancing through federal agencies, it would have a devastating impact on the LGBT community and LGBT elders,” said Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE. “Imagine the person you love being denied essential care in a nursing home or being turned away from a hospital simply because of who they are and who they love. We cannot allow this to happen, and that’s why SAGE is launching the Care Can’t Waitcampaign.”

The campaign is backed by partners such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality, Human Rights Campaign (HRC), and the Movement Advancement Project. It will reach hundreds of thousands of supporters through an ad campaign created by the digital agency, Craft + Commerce. The campaign asks care providers, people of faith, and all who believe in caring for our community members, to take a pledge to stand with LGBT elders in the face of religious discrimination. The pledge is online at sageusa.org/carecantwait.

“In the United States we decided a long time ago that when a space is open to the public, it should be open to everyone. Religious freedom is one of our most important values, but religion cannot be used to harm others,” said James Esseks, Director of the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project. “Our clients Dave and Charlie were devastated when they were turned away from Masterpiece Cakeshop. SAGE’s Care Can’t Wait campaign illustrates the harm LGBT elders could face if they are turned away from spaces, including those with services like health care and housing. That’s why it is so important for us to work in courts and communities across the nation to make sure that equal opportunity is the norm and the law in all 50 states.”

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

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