Supes protect LGBT seniors from discrimination

A city ordinance prohibiting discrimination against senior lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender San Franciscans by long-term care facilities and nursing homes was unanimously approved by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

The LGBT Senior Long Term Care Facilities Bill of Rights Ordinance, introduced by San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener, who represents the Castro neighborhood as well as the rest of District 8, was the result of a recommendation by San Francisco’s LGBT Aging Task Force.

The ordinance will prohibit discrimination against LGBT residents by long-term care facilities and put in place protocols regarding aging LGBT populations. Those populations will not only be protected from discrimination under state law, but by city law as well.

Wiener said the ordinance would require care facilities to fulfill certain requirements when caring for LGBT or HIV-positive residents, including designating an LGBT liaison, who will undergo periodic training. The ordinance will also require facilities to respect residents’ wishes to be addressed by the pronouns of their choice.

Based on the task force’s recommendation, the ordinance also ensures that requests by two residents to share a room will not be denied and will forbid room reassignments made as a result of a complaint about another resident’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It will also prohibit eviction of residents based on their LGBT status.

Access to appropriate medical care and drugs specific to an LGBT resident’s needs are also covered in the ordinance, as is the requirement that care facilities allow residents to use restrooms which are made available to other residents of the same gender identity.

Wiener said that based on the task force’s findings, LGBT individuals are less likely than non-LGBT individuals to have their own children and are more likely to live further away from their relatives, meaning that many in that population will likely need to go into senior care facilities as they age. He said LGBT seniors are more vulnerable to marginalization due to stigmatization, and that can lead to isolation, homelessness, poverty, and premature institutionalization.

The LGBT Aging Task Force’s policy report, “LGBT Aging at the Golden Gate” suggests additional steps to be taken to ensure that LGBT seniors are treated with respect as they age. Such steps include improving eviction protections and increasing access to affordable housing for LGBT seniors.

Additional recommendations by the task force suggest improved protections for senior LGBT populations in single room occupancy apartments and homeless shelters.

Wiener said:

“Our LGBT seniors are the pioneers who paved the way for the rights people in our community enjoy today, and it is our responsibility to ensure that as they age they continue to enjoy those very same rights.”

The ordinance was endorsed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, and California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, among other organizations. In addition, the ordinance will provide aggrieved persons with the right to seek investigation and mediation by the city’s Human Rights Commission and create a private right of action for violations, Wiener said.┬áThe ordinance also imposes additional requirements around record keeping, confidentiality and privacy.

Wiener’s fight for senior LGBT San Franciscans is just starting. A hearing was held today to discuss the expected financial needs of San Franciscans living with HIV/AIDS who will lose private disability insurance as they become eligible for Social Security benefits.

According to a report released by the Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Legislative Analyst, the population of people living with HIV/AIDS in San Francisco is aging and that 8,837 of the 15,971 San Francisco residents who are HIV positive or have AIDS are 50 years or older.

According to the report, the annual income of people living with HIV/AIDS on private disability insurance is expected to drop by an average of 40 percent when they become eligible for Social Security at the age of 65. As a result, individuals’ monthly income that would go towards rent would increase from 45 percent to 74 percent, according to the report.

The report states, “the lost income will make it impossible to afford San Francisco’s current median rent.” Individuals who are transitioning from private disability insurance to Social Security are likely to have reduced incomes and are likely to rely more on public services, the report states.