Trump Administration Issues License to Discriminate

 In: Announcements

The Trump administration recently issued guidelines that dangerously give a license to discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community, especially our elders, under the guise of so-called religious freedom.

Issued by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime opponent of LGBTQ+ equality, the guidance gives federal agencies broad leeway to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people based on their religious beliefs and allowing them exemptions from federal laws, rules, and regulations.

Of particular note to the LGBTQ+ older adult community, nearly 85 percent of retirement communities are faith-based, according to a recent analysis by LeadingAge and Ziegler, a Chicago investment bank. What’s more, these organizations make up more than 80 percent of all units available to LGBTQ+ elders, putting them at specific risk. LGBTQ+ elders’ care could be seriously compromised by allowing these institutions or individuals to find an exemption to refuse to care for LGBTQ+ elders.

This license to discriminate also exacerbates the challenge of LGBTQ+ people seeking housing. LGBTQ+ older adults already face extreme discrimination when seeking housing: A study by the Equal Rights Center and SAGE found that 48 percent of elder same-sex couples experienced overt discrimination when applying for senior housing, and the problem is amplified for older transgender people. When it comes to visiting a doctor or a medical facility, this license to discriminate could allow providers to refuse care to LGBTQ+ people or provide substandard service.

Further, this license to discriminate goes directly against the wishes of a vast majority of Americans and a bipartisan group in Congress (60 percent of Republicans and 80 percent of Democrats), who support protecting our LGBTQ+ community, according to a recent Public Religion Research Survey.

“Today’s Department of Justice guidelines are merely a license to discriminate based on so-called religious freedom, and they are a disaster for this country,” says SAGE CEO Michael Adams. “Neither individuals nor faith-based organizations—nor any other entity—have the right to elevate their religious beliefs above the laws that protect all Americans. For LGBTQ+ elders, this guidance is particularly dangerous.”

Adams continues: “The vast majority of long-term care providers in this country are faith-based organizations. The notion that the federal government would suggest that such organizations can elevate their religious beliefs above their legal, ethical, and professional responsibilities to provide respectful and discrimination-free care is outrageous. SAGE and LGBTQ+ elders will fight any effort to implement this license to discriminate against LGBTQ+ elders and the LGBTQ+ community.”

SAGE will continue to stand with and for our LGBTQ+ pioneers. We will not back down. We refuse to be invisible.