Several bills introduced in Congress would bolster non-discrimination protections for LGBT elders and ensure access to aging services and supports for LGBT elders and older people living with HIV[Washington, D.C.] – Today, U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici, along with her House colleagues Ted Deutch and Charlie Crist, re-introduced the Ruthie and Connie LGBT Elder Americans Act, a critical LGBT aging bill named after lesbian activists Ruthie Berman and her late wife Connie Kurtz.
The bill, endorsed by SAGE, would be a significant step forward in protecting LGBT elders, who face higher rates of poverty, pronounced social isolation, and less access to health care. If passed, it 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 legislation follows yesterday’s re-introduction of the Equality Act, a federal LGBT civil rights bill that would protect the LGBT and gender nonconforming community against discrimination.
“Congress is ready to take action to protect LGBT rights. The 50th anniversary of Stonewall is coming up this year. It’s been 50 years, and we’re making progress,” said U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici speaking during SAGE’s National Day of Advocacy on March 13. “When I met with SAGE, I met an older gentleman who said that in order to get in-home care, he felt like he had to take down all of his pictures and hide who he was. That is wrong. That’s why we need to pass this bill.”
Ruthie Berman, 84, 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 LGBT activists.
“While we’ve made progress in our fight for LGBT equality, we still have work to do,” said 84-year-old Ruthie Berman, a lesbian activist and namesake of the bill. “My beloved Connie Kurtz passed away on May 27, 2018. I know Connie’s spirit is here, and that she would be proud to see the incredible advances that the LGBT community is achieving. LGBT people, especially older people, across the country still face challenges in accessing aging services and supports. That’s why this legislation is so important, and why it must be passed.”
“We are thrilled to see the introduction of the Ruthie Connie LGBT Elder Americans Act – the day after SAGE’s first ever National Day of Advocacy. Ruthie Berman, the bill’s namesake, met Congresswoman Bonamici and passionately made the case for protections. It’s been 50 years since Stonewall. It’s been five decades since that uprising. It’s high time that our LGBT trailblazers are protected and can access services,” said SAGE CEO Michael Adams. “We commend the leadership of Congresswoman Bonamici and thank each Member of Congress—including Representatives Ted Deutch, Charlie Crist, and David Cicilline, as well as Senator Jeff Merkley—who are taking a stand to better protect millions of older LGBT people across the country.”
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.