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For Immediate Release

February 26, 2014

ERC Documents Discrimination against Older Same-Sex Couples

Ten-state testing-investigation partners with SAGE to show adverse treatment toward same-sex couples seeking housing in senior-living facilities.

For Immediate Release
Grant Beck, Equal Rights Center, 202.370.3227

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 26, 2014—Today the Equal Rights Center (ERC)—a national non-profit civil rights organization—published the results of a 10-state testing-based investigation documenting adverse differential treatment against older same-sex couples seeking housing in senior living facilities. The report was released in partnership with SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders), the country’s largest national organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT older adults.

The report, titled “Opening Doors: An Investigation of Barriers to Senior Housing for Same-Sex Couples,” documents the results of 200 matched-pair telephone tests conducted by the ERC in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington. In 96 of the 200 tests (48 percent), a tester inquiring about housing in a senior living facility for a same-sex couple experienced at least one form of adverse differential treatment, as compared to a counterpart tester inquiring about housing for a heterosexual couple.

“This investigation is the first of its kind to focus on providing objective, quantitative data specific to older same-sex couples seeking senior housing,” said Don Kahl, Executive Director of the ERC. “Older LGBT individuals face many unique challenges when seeking housing at senior-living facilities, and discriminatory practices cause further, undue hardship in the lives of LGBT seniors at a time when financial resources are often becoming more limited.”

SAGE partnered with ERC to conceptualize and execute the report. Housing instability affects millions of LGBT older people around the country, many of whom face severe financial hardship, challenges with employment and unequal treatment under the law.

For SAGE Executive Director Michael Adams, this report attests to the role that discrimination plays in worsening this housing instability among LGBT elders.

“This critical report documents the severe ways in which same-sex older people are denied equal opportunity in housing, dramatically affecting their abilities to live full and healthy lives as they age,” said Adams. “Policy makers and housing providers must work together to ensure that safe and affordable housing is accessible and available to all older people, regardless of their sexual orientations and gender identities.”

The ERC conducted 20 telephone tests in each of the ten states included in the testing investigation using a “matched-pair” methodology, in which testers with virtually identical profiles, except one identified as part of a same-sex and the other as part of an opposite-sex married couple, interacted with senior housing agents to inquire about moving into their senior living community. The tested states were chosen to provide a measure of geographic diversity across the country, and to include states along the full spectrum of sexual orientation anti-discrimination protections.

Some of the adverse differential treatment experienced:

  • Housing agents providing information about additional units being available to the tester from an opposite-sex couple;
  • Housing agents advising the tester from the same-sex couple about additional fees, costs, and/or a more extensive application process than were disclosed to the heterosexual tester;
  • Housing agents providing information about additional amenities to the testers from the opposite sex couple that were not mentioned to the tester from the same sex couple; and
  • Housing agents offering “specials” and discounts to the tester from the same-sex couple that were not offered to the tester from the opposite sex couple.

In addition to the test findings, the report also includes a number of recommendations to address these findings.  Recommendations include: (1) legislators should work to pass legislation that prohibits housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; (2) existing legal protections need to be enforced when housing discrimination does occur; (3) senior housing providers must adopt anti-discrimination policies and practices; (4) LGBT seniors should know their housing rights and the resources available; and (5) further research must be conducted to provide additional data on housing discrimination against older LGBT adults.

The ERC collaborated with SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders) on the creation and release of this report. The ERC’s testing investigation was supported by grants from the Retirement Research Fund and the Gill Foundation.  


About the Equal Rights Center (

Originally formed in 1983, the Equal Rights Center (ERC) is a national non-profit civil rights organization based in Washington, D.C.  With members located in every state and the District of Columbia, the ERC works nationally to promote equal opportunity in housing, employment, and access to public accommodations and government services for all protected classes under federal, state, and local laws.

About SAGE (
Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (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 offers supportive services and consumer resources for LGBT older adults and their caregivers, advocates for public policy changes that address the needs of LGBT older people, and provides training for aging providers and LGBT organizations, largely through its National Resource Center on LGBT Aging. With offices in New York City, Washington, DC and Chicago, SAGE coordinates a growing network of 26 local SAGE affiliates in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

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