22 posts categorized "Legal"

April 13, 2018

Georgia woman on state's lack of protections for LGBT older people: "It's time for that to change" 

As she approaches the age of 75, Marsha Bond is committed to staying engaged in her community. She volunteers in multiple ways near her home in Clarkston, Georgia. For many years now, she has served as a caregiver for a lesbian woman with Alzheimer’s, and she also volunteers with a refugee family, a growing population in the Atlanta metro area.

But Bond is beginning to look toward her own future—and she's worried about whether the community to which she's been supportive and welcoming will return the favor. This is the fear facing many LGBT older adults: that retirement communities, facilities for older adults, and assisted living homes will be at best unwelcoming and at worst outright discriminatory.

Recent reports demonstrate the challenging realities for LGBT elders, who disproportionately face discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In 32 states, LGBT people don’t have sufficient protections from anti-LGBT discrimination.

“We all dream of a place where we can age with people who understand us and who know us better than straight people. I worry about being able to afford a place to live and have the good fortune to live with people who are like me.”

But the lack of protections hits older adults in a different way than it hurts young people. Consider visits to the doctor’s office, the search for an affirming place to live in retirement, or the ability to rely on the social networks and supports of community centers. 

Georgia, where Bond lives, is one of the states without sufficient protections.

“I want to seek retirement housing that is affordable and consists of more LGBT elders than straight elders,” she said. “We all dream of a place where we can age with people who understand us and who know us better than straight people. I worry about being able to afford a place to live and have the good fortune to live with people who are like me.”

marsha bond georgia

Bond misses, in some ways, her time in New Orleans when she was a younger woman. “There is not a lesbian community here in Clarkston like there was when I was young in New Orleans. It was wonderful,” she said. “It was right after I came out, and I lived in a women’s collective, and I just loved it. It felt like a protective, interesting community.”

Finding affordable housing more generally is also a concern for Bond. There simply aren’t many options for older adults in the Clarkston area, and without many options, the explicitly LGBT-affirming options are even fewer. She says this fruitless search in some ways has made her feel isolated, dreading the future, and feeling frustrated about a lack of community. 

For years, Bond worked as an ombudsman. Her primary duty was to check in on long-term care residents in health care facilities and follow up with those who had submitted complaints of discrimination to the state. Through this role, she was able to build relationships with residents and understand firsthand if someone was being treated improperly. Having legal protection from discrimination and a structure to report cases of neglect, abuse, or discrimination is an important way for people in residential care settings to thrive.

Now, just as she acted as a sentinel for residents who required additional assistance, Bond is speaking out and calling out anti-LGBT discrimination more broadly. She’s teaming up with SAGE and Freedom for All Americans to advance the call for LGBT equal treatment nationwide. 

Bond knows how frequently state lawmakers in Georgia have debated the merits of discriminatory legislation targeting LGBT Georgians. “It would be devastating” if an anti-LGBT “license to discriminate” passed, she said, remembering the near passage of Georgia's so-called First Amendment Defense Act in 2016, which was blocked at the last minute by Republican Governor Nathan Deal’s veto. 

Even in 2018, Georgians lack basic state-level nondiscrimination protections, including protections from discrimination based on race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

Read a full report about the challenges LGBT older adults face from SAGE and the Movement Advancement Project

It’s time for that to change, Bond says. It’s time for fully inclusive nondiscrimination protections across Georgia. And it’s time for legislators to stop proposing damaging, discriminatory laws.  

Bond has a basic plea and simple advice for decision-makers in Georgia: “Don’t make any laws that create problems for us, because we are going to come out and demonstrate,” she says. “Treat us like you treat any other human being—with fairness, respect, and dignity.”

October 30, 2017

Masterpiece Cakeshop Case Pushing Us Back Into the Closet? No Way!


C72c6297-a7ff-4ad1-a0b2-6c366523d7a2Can you imagine being forced back into the closet when you and your partner apply for affordable housing? Or not being allowed to honor your spouse's last wishes upon their passing? And all denied to you because an establishment decides to discriminate against you based on its "religious beliefs" or its own definition of free speech? 

The Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case before the United States Supreme Court represents much more than allowing a same-sex couple its right to purchase a wedding cake. It's about protecting older LGBT people from having a license to discriminate in senior centers, housing, long-term care facilities, and funeral homes. That's why SAGE, with the assistance of the law firm of Squire Patton Boggs, joined the American Society on Aging when it filed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of the Colorado Court of Appeals' Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling that everyone has a right to equal treatment under the law.

"This case could affect tens of thousands of older LGBT people," says SAGE CEO Michael Adams. "As we have stated in our amicus brief, many LGBT elders are single. Many are poor. And many are in declining health. Most of these LGBT older adults are not looking to buy a custom cake or purchase a floral arrangement or have their picture taken. They are seeking nondiscriminatory access to facilities such as senior centers, long-term care facilities, and funeral homes. They are entitled to live out their later years in dignity. SAGE stands in opposition to allowing discrimination under the guise of religious freedom.”

October 6, 2017

SAGE Assures Same-Sex Married Couples That Their Rights Are Safe

Copy of Graham Healthcare Bill

Given the severe challenges that LGBT people have faced under the Trump administration, we understand our community’s alarm when hearing news that the administration is planning to revoke a rule proposed in 2014 to protect married, same-sex couples in long-term care facilities like nursing homes.

In consultation with our community’s best legal minds, SAGE has carefully reviewed this announcement. The proposed rule from 2014 is no longer needed in light of the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision in 2015, which ensures that our marriages are federally recognized and afforded equal rights under all circumstances in all parts of the country. Therefore, in this case the Trump administration’s action will make no difference.  

Having said that, we all know that the progress our community has made is under regular attack by the Trump administration. This week alone the administration has moved to roll back protections for transgender employees and voted against a UN resolution condemning the death penalty for same-sex relations. Our elders suffer the consequences of these incessant assaults on our rights and dignity. SAGE  remains relentlessly vigilant to fight any effort to turn back the clock on our community.

November 14, 2016

SAGEMatters Fall 2016: Lives of Boundless Opportunities


SAGEMatters Fall 2016: Lives of Boundless Opportunities

As we share the latest SAGEMatters with you, we are living through a period of unprecedented change. Perhaps nothing reminds us of this more sharply than this year’s high-stakes elections, which have turned long-standing political and social assumptions on their heads.

This theme of change runs powerfully through the features in this issue of SAGEMatters. Inside, you’ll find George Takei’s take on personal evolution; learn how Jeffrey Erdman has taken the LA leather scene by storm in his 50s; and follow an inspiring conversation with Kate Kendell, Mara Keisling and Carmen Vazquez about the changing landscape of gender identity. You’ll also learn how the federal government (after a lot of pushing by SAGE) is moving to transform publicly-funded aging services to make them more LGBT-friendly. Join us in celebrating the realization of a decades-long dream for our communities in New York City, as SAGE announces the construction of the first two LGBTfriendly elder housing communities in the Big Apple. And so much more.

This time of great change and evolution sets the stage for the launch of SAGE’s new strategic plan. The overriding goal of the plan is to dramatically expand the impact of SAGE’s work so that LGBT people can grow older with boundless opportunities for growth and enrichment. We believe that we can achieve this transformative vision by tapping into our legacy of “taking care of our own,” by building ties across generations, by encouraging communities to become LGBT age-friendly and by convincing partners of all kinds to get involved. This issue of SAGEMatters includes a special feature on our new plan—we hope you’ll be as excited as we are.

For me, all of this has a special personal significance as I celebrate my 10th anniversary at the helm of this amazing organization. I’m so proud of the great progress that we have made together on behalf of our LGBT elder pioneers. And I’m tremendously passionate about the next chapter of SAGE’s work.

I know that as you read through this latest SAGEMatters it will be even clearer to you why SAGE’s efforts matter more than ever. Let’s keep working together so that all LGBT elders have the support they need to live lives of boundless opportunity.


Michael Adams
Chief Executive Officer

SAGEMatters is the biannual magazine of Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE). View and download the expanded Fall 2016 issue here.

April 28, 2016

Budgeting for Housing, Healthcare and Marriage Shouldn’t Be Scary

By Vera Lukacs

LGBT older adults have unique financial concerns. Not only are they faced with economic uncertainty, but they face discrimination in housing and healthcare, and the prospect of marriage is still new for many. How can LGBT older adults budget better for basic necessities? This question is important, considering that over 25 million older adults (60+) are living in poverty. Contrary to popular belief, planning and budgeting can be a positive experience! It can be tough to think about, but it’s worth doing when you have the chance to prepare and get a step ahead. Not sure where to start? Check out this LGBT Financial Planning Guide.

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Budgeting for healthcare in later years is incredibly important. LGBT older adults have a vast amount of needs that their heterosexual counterparts don’t even think about. But first, a significant factor in this process is LGBT elders need to feel comfortable sharing who they are with their healthcare providers. For transgender people seeking hormone treatments and surgeries or those with HIV, finding a provider can be a scary process. GLMA has a provider directory to help people find LGBT-competent healthcare providers.

LGBT older adults often struggle to find affordable and safe housing. Many don’t have the economic security to invest in long term care facilities, and many are denied housing simply for being who they are. Nearly half of older same-sex couples experienced at least one form of differential treatment when inquiring about housing in a long-term care facility. SAGE launched the National LGBT Elder Housing Initiative to address these issues.

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What does marriage equality mean for LGBT couples? See our new toolkit, Talk Before You Walk: Considerations for LGBT Older Couples Before Getting Married. Getting married is about more than bringing two individuals together. Marriage provides a number of benefits, rights, and protections. With these rights comes the sharing of financial liabilities. To ensure a secured household, talk with your partner before you walk!

Appointing a power of attorney can come in handy in an emergency. In the event that an LGBT older adult is incapacitated or otherwise unable to make sound decisions, a power of attorney can allow a trusted loved one to step in and decide on their behalf. For more information on planning your last wishes, see our blog Financial Literacy: Tips and Tricks for LGBT Elders!

Vera Lukacs is a digital media assistant at SAGE. April is Financial Literacy Month. What do you need to know as an LGBT older adult? Follow the SAGE blog this month for more!

April 11, 2016

We Are the Voices of Change: Fighting Back North Carolina’s HB2

This post originally appeared on HuffPost Queer Voices on April 6th, 2016. Read the original post here.

In a 12 hour special session on March 23rd, the North Carolina General Assembly passed House Bill 2 (HB2). Designed to overturn a Charlotte City Council ordinance which protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in public accommodation, commercial contracting and taxis, HB2 is the most sweeping anti-LGBT legislation in the nation, according to Equality North Carolina(NC). It overturns existing ordinances protecting LGBT people across the state and bans transgender people from using restrooms that correspond with their gender.

SAGE (Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders) is the country’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT older adults. In support of achieving equal treatment for LGBT people across the country, SAGE has worked with our partners in NC over the last four years to train LGBT older adults to tell their stories of discrimination in housing, health care, public accommodation and employment. Through SAGE Story, our NC affiliates, SAGE Wilmington and SAGE Raleigh, and our partners, the Freedom Center for Social Justice and Equality North Carolina bring the voices of LGBT older adults to the fight.

Serena Worthington, SAGE’s Director of National Field Initiatives, sat down with SAGE Story alum Reverend Debra J. Hopkins, an out and proud transgender woman and a minister at Sacred Souls Community Church in Charlotte, to talk about the importance of anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people, how HB2 harms LGBT North Carolinians and how she uses her story to advocate for equality for all.


Serena Worthington: I first met you at SAGE’s Storytelling Summit where I had a chance to interview you one-on-one. I was impressed by your style and how you foreground your personal biography as a transgender woman and a person of faith. Why is this important?

Debra J. Hopkins: Whether I’m behind the pulpit, out in the community or speaking to state representatives or community members, I try to tell my story in a relatable way. I do this because the best story that I can share with anybody is mine own, my story and my journey.

SW: I watched a clip of you testifying at the hearing for the Charlotte non-discrimination ordinance. I was especially impressed by the fact that you spoke so powerfully, even though the room was filled with people opposing the bill and you had just a very brief amount of time. What was that moment like for you?

DH: We only had one minute to speak because there were 140 people there. In the moment, I cut my remarks down from three minutes. If you watch that clip, you see that I step away from what I had at the podium. The quickest way for me to get my story or my point across is to first give a quick bio of who I am, the work that I’m doing and the point that I need to drive home to my audience. Most of my speaking comes from inspiration— it’s an ability, a gift of mine to be able to, at a moment’s notice, be direct and candid about the issues and concerns that many of us have. You are not going to understand me if I’m rushing and I’ve learned the art of condensing so that I can brief but still be passionate and get my point across. You have to be able to work with the time afforded you.

SW: I often hear the phrase storytelling is a Southern tradition. How does that tradition play out for you?

DH: I come out of corporate America—my original home was New York City where I was a broker and a schoolteacher—and what’s fascinating about it is that I have translated that experience down here to the South. Over the 30+ plus years that I’ve been down here, I’ve had a combination of both a Northern flavor and a Southern flavor. Combined with the passion that I have for real change—equality for all—I draw on all of those energies to fit the pieces together when I tell my story.

SW: In person and on video, you have a fantastic delivery style. You take your time, you smile a lot, and you make lots of eye contact which really conveys a strong sense of you as a person. What training have you found to be the most useful to you as you continue to improve your storytelling and speaking skills?

DH: I had a mentor out of Dallas, TX who helped me develop my skills as a young pastor, Dr. Tony Evans. Dr. Evans is the pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship and he is also the President of the Urban Alternative Christian Broadcast Ministry. He was very influential to me. I became a pastor a year-and-a-half into my ministry and I didn’t get the tutelage and training that a lot of seasoned pastors would have had early in their careers. I had to learn as I go. My mentor talked about the importance of taking my time, making strong eye contact, and conveying my message as articulately as possible.

SW: Whose story inspires you?

DH: There are three people that move on the altar of my heart. The first one is a transgender woman named Christine Jorgensen, who was an author and entertainer. When I was going through my struggle, the internet was not available and the transgender community was not being spoken of, or fought for, as the gay and lesbian community went battle for their rights. I met Christine Jorgensen about a year-and-a-half before she passed away. She helped me understand what I was going through which sent me on the path to continue to do research.

Also, strange as it may sound, my Dad—who never knew that I was in the midst of my transition because he passed away early. He instilled some very important things in me. One of things he told me that I will always remember is that no matter what I do or wherever I go, be the best that I can be. He told me, if you want to be a bum on the street, be the best bum on the street. If you are going to do anything, do it with dignity and do it with respect.

My current pastor, Bishop Tonyia Rawls, has been quite an influence on me. She is helping me shape my elder years so that I am a more complete vessel in this journey of activism and ministry. She is one uniquely gifted individual and she has such a passion for, not just the LGBT community, but specifically the transgender community—whether it’s youth who are struggling with their sexuality or being thrown out into the streets or those of us who are older. She has been such a moving force, I can’t help but be proud of her. She really moves on the altar of my heart. I love that lady like none other.

These people played such a pioneering role in how I move and how I operate today.

SW: You anticipated the swift state government response to the passage of the Charlotte ordinance and said that the government of NC would work hard to rescind it, which it did by passing HB2. How did the passage of the ordinance change things for you and why do you think state-wide LGBT anti-discrimination protections are important.

DH: As a Black trans woman, the Charlotte ordinance gave me protection and the freedom of knowing that I have the right to enter the same spaces and go to the same things as every law abiding citizen in the state of North Carolina. Many of us are very law abiding citizens. We pay our taxes, we try and get an education, some of us are making major contributions in our communities, some of us are teachers, lawyers, doctors, etc. Protections like the Charlotte ordinance give us a sense of peace. We want to be able to travel, to be able to go somewhere and relax without the fear of looking over our shoulder or experiencing harassment. We want the peace of mind and the security necessary to be full citizens of the state of North Carolina.

SW: What advice do you have for your fellow activists?

DH: The advice that I would give anyone pressing for positive change is to be persistent, whether they journey that road alone or are working collectively with other people. The problem is that many of us become defeated or discouraged because we don’t see immediate change and movement. We have to be persistent, be consistent and we must be extremely patient—we must press forward no matter how long it takes to achieve our goals.

For the activists who are fighting, continue to press forward, tap into people like myself and others. We’ll come along side you and make the trip to Greensboro or Raleigh or wherever the state of North Carolina calls. We can do it together. 

In closing, I’ll say this.

Nobody can tell your story like you can. Nobody can walk in your shoes like you can. So tell your story, let no one else write it for you. You are the only one who can tell it and you are the only one who can tell it right.

We are the voices of change and we want to make our voices heard.

Reverend Debra J. Hopkins is a native of New York currently living in Charlotte, NC where she serves with Time Out Youth, Equality NC, the Freedom Center for Social Justice, and the Transgender Alliance Group. She is a licensed and ordained Minister of 28 years.

Serena Worthington is SAGE's Director of National Field Initiatives. Follow Serena on Twitter: 

April 7, 2016

Financial Literacy: Tips and Tricks for LGBT Elders

By Vera Lukacs

It’s critical for LGBT older adults to become more financially literate as they age. According to the SAGE report, Out and Visible: The Experiences and Attitudes of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Older Adults, Ages 45-75, nearly half of all LGBT older people fear they will outlive the money they save for retirement, as compared to a quarter of non-LGBT older people; 1 in 2 single LGBT older people believe they will have to work well beyond retirement age, as compared to less than a third of single non-lgbt older people; and more than half of the LGBT older adult population is concerned about not having enough money to survive retirement.

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From Out and Visible: The Experiences and Attitudes of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Older Adults, Ages 45-75

April is Financial Literacy Month. What do you need to know as an LGBT older adult? Have you planned your estate? How do you find an LGBT-friendly lawyer or financial planner? Here are some tips and tricks for your financial planning this month and long term:  

Find your LGBT-friendly financial planner
Afraid of discrimination? Fear no more. There is an abundance of resources on finding an LGBT-friendly financial planner and/or lawyer. The Wells Fargo guide, Tailored Investment Planning Solutions for Same-Sex Couples and Domestic Partners, will help you find a financial planner with ease. Are you an LGBT-friendly financial planner? Join the Gay Financial Planner list here.

How do you plan your estate? 
Create a will. It can be tough to talk about, but it’s one of the most important steps you should take as an older adult. Did you know that an estimated two-thirds of people die without a will? Check out What Every LGBT Older Adult Needs to Know About Wills from the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging.

Talk to your partner(s), family and friends
Sure, it’s hard to talk finances, but keeping the communication clear between you and your loved ones will make things easier. These Must Read Tax Tips for LGBT Couples explain the difficulties of talking about finances with a partner. “Schedule some time with your significant other to sit down uninterrupted and share a nice bottle of wine. Discuss your financial goals and where you are financially, both as individuals and as a couple. Put this in writing.”

Vera Lukacs is a digital media assistant at SAGE. April is Financial Literacy Month. What do you need to know as an LGBT older adult? Follow the SAGE blog this month for more!

April 24, 2015

Why Marriage Equality Matters for LGBT Older Adults

Rainbow-13902_640Many don’t know that same-sex spouses in non-marriage states still don’t qualify for all the same federal benefits that their different sex counterparts enjoy, simply because they are married to someone of the same sex.  This is an issue that comes up in the context of Social Security, Veterans Administration, and some Medicare benefits.   And it is all the more important for LGBT older adults who face pronounced poverty and lack of access to culturally competent healthcare.

This topic is one that our Executive Director, Michael Adams, examines in detail with his latest op-ed Why Marriage Equality Matters for Older Americans. "Marriage has proven highly effective for improving the lives of many older people," and given the unique issues our LGBT older adult population face, marriage "could be even more beneficial for older same-sex couples than it has been for older straight couples."

Adams writes: 

"Incredibly, two years after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act’s prohibition on federal recognition of same-sex marriages, some married same-sex couples are still being denied federal benefits especially important to older adults.  This is because some federal agencies use the “place of domicile” rule to determine whether a couple is considered married.  As a result, bereaved widows like Kathy continue to be denied Social Security survivors’ benefits because the state in which they live does not recognize their marriage."

With this is mind, SAGE is proud to endorse a bill, the ‘‘Social Security and Medicare Parity Act of 2015,’’ being introduced this week by Representative Mark Takano (D. CA), which would provide equal spousal and survivor benefits, create more flexible marriage tenure requirements, and require the Social Security Administration to engage in more outreach to LGBT older adults so that they are made aware of new or increased benefits.

In addition, SAGE, with the assistance of Jack Nadler as the lead lawyer from the firm Squire Patton Boggs, recently filed an amicus brief related to Obergefell v. Hodges. This historic case will be heard next week and allows the U.S. Supreme Court to determine whether the U.S. Constitution requires every U.S. state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and to recognize marriages of same-sex couples lawfully performed in any other state. SAGE filed the brief with the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, Justice in Aging, National Hispanic Council on Aging, and the American Society on Aging. To learn more about the brief and our four major arguments, click here.


April 16, 2015

Why National Healthcare Decisions Day Matters for LGBT People

1956956_10152884827600353_5665404736844718964_oIt's National Healthcare Decisions Day! A day where folks are encouraged to think about their future and examine important end-of-life documents. Have you put your end-of-life decisions in writing? Do you have a living will? Do you have a health care power of attorney?

These questions are extremely important, especially for our community. In an emergency, would you and your partner be treated as a couple? While The White House has addressed equal visitation and medical decision-making rights for same-sex couples, there are still holes in the system that leave LGBT people open to discrimination

If you don't know where to start, our National Resource Center on LGBT Aging has a number of excellent resources on their site. These include:

Remember, just signing an advance directive may not be enough! A recent blog post from our Successful Aging program highlights an issue with advance directives -- completing the documents may not provide enough protection! For the documents to be effective, treatment providers have to know of them, and what they say. Make sure you have a conversation with your loved ones and medical providers about your end-of-life documents to keep you protected.

March 30, 2015

Successful Aging: Preparation


One of the themes In SAGE’s Successful Aging program is “Preparation.” We define the term as: “Doing what you can, when you can, in advance of and addressing aging related contingencies.” This naturally includes completing wills and all the other related documents, such as living wills and advance directives. But according to a recent article in the New York Times entitled “The Trouble with Advance Directives”, completing the documents may not be preparation enough. For the documents to be effective, treatment providers have to know of them, and what they say.

The article describes a man whose advance directive specified “comfort care only, no heroics.” Not knowing the document existed, much less what it said, his doctors put him on a ventilator, performed a tracheostomy, and inserted a feeding tube. These procedures were approved by the man’s son, who was also unaware of the advance directives, and had never had a conversation with his father about the subject.

The Times article makes clear that getting the documents prepared and signed is only the first step. “Stories abound of documents misplaced, stashed in safe deposit boxes, filed in lawyers’ offices.” Or, as was the case with the case they described, the documents could be in the individual’s file, and were never discussed with family or medical staff.

Even when they’re consulted, the document’s language may prevent ready implementation. If it uses vague or outmoded language (what’s a “terminal “ condition? How long must a “vegetative state” last to qualify as “persistent”?), medical personnel may not be clear about how to proceed.

The best thing “experts say, is an ongoing series of conversations with the relatives or friends who will direct their care when they no longer can. In a crisis, doctors will turn to those people — more than to any document — to learn what the patient wants.”

Preparation, therefore, isn't just about getting a document signed. As the article concluded, “People feel reassured, even downright virtuous, when they have completed their paperwork, ‘but if the family doesn't know about it, if the medical team doesn't know about it, it might as well not exist.’”