Press

LGBT aging issues to take center stage at congressional briefing on Capitol Hill

Date: 
April 21, 2010

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Task Force:
Inga Sarda-Sorensen
646.358.1463
isorensen@theTaskForce.org

SAGE:
Cathy Renna
917.757.6123
cathy@rennacommunications.com

WASHINGTON, April 21 — The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Services and Advocacy for LGBT Elders (SAGE) are convening a National LGBT Aging Roundtable this week in Washington, D.C. In addition, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has organized a congressional briefing on issues facing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people as they age. The briefing will be held April 22, 9:30--11 a.m. in Room 121 of the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill.

The injustice facing many LGBT elders was brought home just this week by the painful story of Clay Greene and Harold Scull, an elderly gay couple separated by officials in Sonoma County, Calif., who also sold their possessions despite the measures the couple took to protect their relationship. More details here.

"The needs of the oldest members of our community have long been invisible to many of us and ignored by most institutions in our society," said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which recently released Outing Age 2010: Public Policy Issues Affecting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Elders. "LGBT elders remain a highly vulnerable and largely invisible aging population. We know that invisibility leads to greater social isolation, which can lead to increased vulnerability in many areas. We also know that discrimination across the lifespan leaves LGBT people economically and socially vulnerable as they age. There are many challenges but we also have concrete recommendations on how aging advocates, policy makers and social service agencies can meet them."

Scheduled speakers at Thursday's congressional briefing are Laurie Young, aging analyst and interim director of Public Policy and Government Affairs of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, who will discuss findings and recommendations in Outing Age 2010; Hope Barrett, director of Elder Affairs of the Howard Brown Health Clinic; Harper Jean Tobin, policy counsel of the National Center for Transgender Equality; Joyce Pierson, elder rights advocate and former staff of the Elder Rights Project of the National Center for Lesbian Rights; and John Johnson, SAGE's federal director of governmental affairs.

"Most Americans already face challenges as they age, but LGBT older adults have the added burden of a lifetime of stigma; relationships that generally lack legal recognition; and unequal treatment under laws, programs and services designed to support and protect older Americans," said Johnson. "We must educate our elected officials and the public about the facts: that LGBT elders are more likely to live in poverty, face social and community isolation, and lack appropriate health care and long-term care."

SAGE recently released a groundbreaking report representing one of the first major collaborations between LGBT advocacy organizations and mainstream aging organizations to comprehensively examine the issues facing LGBT older adults.

Improving the Lives of LGBT Older Adults was co-authored by SAGE and the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), in partnership with the American Society on Aging, the National Senior Citizens Law Center, and the Center for American Progress, with a foreword from the AARP. The report was formally released at the American Society on Aging's national conference, held last month in Chicago, Ill.

"SAGE's report outlines the issues and offers solutions, providing a much-needed roadmap for creating a society where all older adults are treated with dignity and respect," said Johnson.

The LGBT elder population is growing, with a large wave of openly LGBT baby boomers poised to seek aging-related services over the next 25 years. Despite that, there is virtually no government-sponsored research on aging that includes sexual orientation or gender identity variables. This lack of data results in policy and practices that ignore the unique realities and needs of older LGBT people. This is beginning to shift, as the congressional briefing and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' announcement last fall of plans to establish the first national LGBT elder resource center indicates.

"This change can't come too soon," said Carey.

To learn more about the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, follow us on Twitter: @TheTaskForce.

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the grassroots power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. We do this by training activists, equipping state and local organizations with the skills needed to organize broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.

SAGE is the world's oldest and largest nonprofit agency dedicated to serving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults. Since its inception, SAGE has pioneered programs and services for older people in the LGBT community, provided technical assistance and training to expand opportunities for LGBT elders across the country, and provided a national voice on LGBT aging issues. In 2005, SAGE became the first official LGBT delegate at a White House Conference on Aging. SAGE is the first LGBT member of the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations. In 2008, SAGE celebrated its 30th anniversary with its 4th National Conference on LGBT Aging, sponsored by AARP. In February 2010, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the Administration on Aging awarded SAGE a historic grant to create the nation's only national resource center on LGBT aging. For more information, please visit www.sageusa.org.