23 posts categorized "Politics"

December 10, 2013

International Human Rights Day: LGBT Around the World

MandelaquoteIn 1993, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action was adopted at the World Conference on Human Rights. This declaration reaffirmed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Charter and remains a blueprint for reaffirming human rights as a universal standard throughout the world. Today is International Human Rights Day and the U.N. is marking the 20th anniversary of the Vienna Declration. We recognize this day for its affect on promoting all freedoms--civil, political, economical, social and cultural--under a large umbrella. While sad, it almost seems appropriate that this day also marks the memorial to Nelson Mandela--that tireless fighter for human rights.

On this day, many are making a call for renewing a committment to LGBT rights. While we have much to celebrate in 2013, there is still progress to be made, both in the United States and around the world.

In the United States, 16 states have legal same-sex marriage and 33 states have same-sex marriage bans. Also, 21 states, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, and 17 states, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, outlaw discrimination based on gender identity or expression. We have to remember that these stats don't encompass the discrimination faced by the LGBTQ community every day in their schools, places of work or where they live.

According to Stonewall UK, "being gay is illegal in 78 countries across the world and being a lesbian is illegal in 49. In five countries same-sex sexual activity carries the death penalty.
Even where it’s legal to be gay other laws often stand in the way of equality. In some cases gay pride marches are not allowed and neither is literature that ‘promotes homosexuality’ - which often means it simply states its existence." Another breakdown from 76Crimes, lists 78 (plus 4) countries with criminal laws against sexual activity by LGBTI people.

On this International Human Rights Day, SAGE joins the chorus in calling for a better recognition of human rights for our community around the world and commends the work of the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission. We encourage folks to watch this excellent video from the United Nations and share.


November 8, 2013

SAGE Speaks at Senate Committee Meeting on Aging

SAGE Executive Director, Michael Adams, sits next to Joe Baker, President of the Medicare Rights Center at the November 6th Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee.

On November 6, several leaders in the aging field met with the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee to discuss programs that are critical to the health and economic security of older Americans. SAGE Executive Director Michael Adams, one of the speakers at this meeting, highlighted the unique needs of LGBT older people and how federal programs can support healthy aging for all elders.

The Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee is dedicated to fostering dialogue between Senate Democrats and leaders from across the nation. Each year, the Steering Committee hosts numerous meetings with advocates, policy experts, and elected officials to discuss key priorities The Steering Committee is chaired by Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) and vice chaired by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). Fifteen senators participated in the November 6 meeting, including Harry Reid (D-NV), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and  Jeff Merkley (D-OR), lead sponsor of ENDA.

To read more about the meeting, visit the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee’s page. Photos from the event can be found here.

October 30, 2013

Senate Moves on Older Americans Act

FederalHeadToday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee began the process of marking-up (meaning debating, amending, or rewriting) S.1562, the Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2013.

As you may know, the Older Americans Act (OAA) was scheduled to be reauthorized in 2011. This historically bi-partisan law, has, however, been trapped in the same partisanship that has gripped all of Washington.  

OAA is the most significant source of funding for programs that serve older Americans, and in 2011, when the reauthorization process began, SAGE and our advocacy partners, including HRC and members of the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, consistently advocated to make it LGBT inclusive. During the reauthorization process, there were some high points for the LGBT community.  In 2012, Senator Michael Bennet (D. CO) introduced the LGBT Elder Americans Act of 2012, a set of amendments to the OAA that would have for the first time made the OAA explicitly LGBT inclusive. Senator Bernie Sanders (I. VT) included Senator Bennet’s LGBT-inclusive amendments in his larger, Democratic bill that he introduced in the last Congress and reintroduced during  Older Americans Month (May 2013). SAGE acknowledges and appreciates Senator Bennet and Senator Sanders’s support for LGBT older adults and the leadership they demonstrated in fighting for inclusion of these amendments throughout the reauthorization process. We'd also like to thank Chairman Tom Harkin (D. IA) and Senator Tammy Baldwin (D. WI) for their continued support of the LGBT amendments.

Continue reading "Senate Moves on Older Americans Act" »

October 1, 2013

How Will the Government Shutdown Impact Older Adults?

5885982The federal government shut down today, and many are wondering how this will affect their federal benefits. The short answer is that for now, most Americans who rely on federal benefit payments will be unaffected. Spending on programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and benefits for retired federal employees will continue.

Here are a few more questions and answers about programs that affect many older adults:

Would a shutdown put the brakes on implementing the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare?" No. The state-run exchanges for the uninsured would open as scheduled Tuesday. "The marketplaces will be open on Tuesday, no matter what, even if there is a government shutdown," President Obama said Friday.

Why not? Like Social Security or Medicaid, Obamacare is a permanent entitlement that isn't subject to annual funding by Congress. "Many of the core parts of the health care law are funded through mandatory appropriations and wouldn't be affected," Gary Cohen, the Health and Human Services Department official overseeing the health care rollout, said last week.

Would seniors continue to get Social Security benefits? Yes. Social Security is a mandatory spending program, and the people who send those checks would continue to work under a legal doctrine called "necessary implication."

Can I apply for Social Security benefits, appeal a denial of benefits, change my address or sign up for direct deposit? Yes.

Can I get a new or replacement Social Security card, benefit verification statement or earnings record correction? No.

Would the government continue to pay unemployment benefits? Yes. The Employment and Training Administration "will continue to provide essential functions, as occurred during the shutdown of 1995," according to the Department of Labor contingency plan.

Will I be able to get food stamps? Yes. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is funded through the Recovery Act and from funds that don't expire for another year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says.

What will happen to veterans receiving compensation for service- or combat-related wounds and injuries? The Department of Veterans Affairs said if the shutdown continues into late October, it will run out of money for compensation and pension checks to more than 3.6 million veterans who rely on the money to support themselves.

Will deceased veterans still be able to get a burial benefit? Yes. Burial benefits, headstones and death notices will still be available.

This Q&A was excerpted from the USA Today article, “66 questions and answers about the government shutdown.”  For a chart detailing the impact of the shutdown on various offices and functions, see “Government Shutdown: What’s Closed, What’s Open?” at CNN.

May 22, 2013

The Top 5 Interesting Things You Didn’t Know About the Older Americans Act (OAA)

This is a guest post by Aaron Tax, SAGE’s Director of Federal Government Relations.

May is Older Americans Month, a time to honor elders’ contributions to our communities. The official site encourages all of us to show our support for Older Americans Month by unleashing the power of age in our community. For the month of May, we will feature a story every Wednesday relevant to LGBT older Americans.

Senator Sanders Kick-starts OAA Reauthorization: Tomorrow, Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) will introduce a bill to reauthorize the the Older Americans Act (OAA).  Senator Sanders is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, which has jurisdiction over the reauthorization of the OAA. The bill will be introduced at 11am at the Dirksen Senate Office Building. The introduction will be a part of the Older Americans Summit that Senator Sanders and his colleagues are putting together to celebrate Older Americans Month and the bill introduction.

Learn more about the OAA and its implications for LGBT elders by clicking here.

The Top 5 Interesting Things You Didn’t Know About the Older Americans Act (OAA)

Continue reading "The Top 5 Interesting Things You Didn’t Know About the Older Americans Act (OAA)" »

May 20, 2013

Council Leaders Identify and Implement LGBT Specific Health Strategies

Credit: Healthy Chicago LGBT Community Action Plan
The following is a guest post by Serena Worthington, SAGE's Director of Community Advocacy and Capacity Building.

Tomorrow begins a new adventure in community service for me. I’ll be attending the first meeting of the newly-formed Chicago LGBT Health Advisory Council which was created to “provide insight and input to the Department of Public Health on implementation of the LGBT Health Action Plan.” The LGBT Health Action Plan is an outline of 22 strategies designed to “improve the overall health of Chicago’s LGBT community.”

Our mayor, Rahm Emanuel, had this nice thing to say about the council.

"Chicago's strength is in the diversity of its communities, and I am committed to ensuring that all Chicagoans have access to the care and information they need to live healthy lives and contribute fully to the vibrancy of our city,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “This advisory council will lend important insight and knowledge to our efforts.”

I am joined by 15 talented and accomplished folks, some of whom I know already and some that I am excited to meet for the first time tomorrow. 

Continue reading "Council Leaders Identify and Implement LGBT Specific Health Strategies " »

April 30, 2013

Equality & Justice Day: Sending a Clear Message to Congress to Pass GENDA

Today's post is by Alli Auldridge, SAGE Policy Associate.


SAGE at E & J Day 027
E&J Day 2012
This morning I boarded a bus at 6:30 am, along with SAGE constituents and fellow staff. We are traveling three hours from New York City to the capitol building in Albany for Equality & Justice Day (simply known as E&J Day). This annual lobbying event is organized by the Empire State Pride Agenda for LGBT New Yorkers—a time for rallies and workshops, networking with statewide advocates and meetings with legislators. SAGE advocates have attended E&J Day every year—indeed 2013 will mark constituent Rodney Adams' 12th year of participation!


This year, LGBT advocates of all ages are hoping to send a loud and clear message to elected officials: pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA). GENDA would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression and offer uniform protections for transgender New Yorkers across the state. Recent GENDA campaigns by Housing Works, New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), the Empire State Pride Agenda and others have highlighted the personal stories of discrimination and bias experienced by transgender New Yorkers and increased the call for the passage of GENDA in 2013. All of us at SAGE are eager to join with other LGBT advocates and make our voices heard at E&J Day.

Stay tuned to SAGE's Facebook and Twitter pages for updates from Albany throughout the day!

April 17, 2013

Health Equity for LGBT Older People of Color

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Screenshot of SAGE's new policy report

This is a guest post by Robert Espinoza, SAGE's Senior Director for Public Policy and Communications. April is National Minority Health Month and in today's post, Robert writes about the health disparities faced by LGBT older people of color and the release of SAGE's new policy report "Health Equity and LGBT Elders of Color.” The report can be downloaded here.

This post was originally featured on the Huffington Post, and can also be seen on the Diverse Elders Coalition’s website

Helena Bushong is 60, transgender and living with HIV/AIDS. In 2002, she was dually diagnosed with HIV and AIDS and given six months to live. Ty Martin is an aging advocate who leads a support group for older gay black men with HIV/AIDS in the historic Harlem neighborhood of New York City. His group members grapple with stigma, the questions related to accelerated aging as HIV-positive people, and a general longing for community. Both Helena and Ty are LGBT and people of color. And both of them combat the health disparities and socio-economic challenges associated with aging as people who are marginalized on multiple fronts—a reality rarely discussed in the mainstream aging field or in the popular LGBT rights movement. The virtual silence on this subject lives out in their personal and political lifespans. 

Continue reading "Health Equity for LGBT Older People of Color" »

March 28, 2013

Inside the Supreme Court Marriage Equality Hearings

This is a post by Aaron Tax, SAGE’s Director of Federal Government Relations. He attended the Prop 8 and DOMA hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, and tweeted live from the steps of the Supreme Court. Visits twitter.com/sageusa to follow all the latest news.

I had the good fortune to attend the Supreme Court hearings this week on Prop 8 and DOMA. However, after standing in line in the dark and the cold on two long consecutive mornings, the last thing I wanted to hear from the Supreme Court was anything about standing (albeit standing of a different variety).  Given the long and circuitous procedural paths each of the cases took to get to the Supreme Court, that was, however, one of the common themes over two days of arguments on same-sex marriage.  The first day focused on whether individuals have a Constitutional right to get married  to someone of the same sex. The second focused on whether the federal government must recognize those marriages.  I was fortunate to be able to spend some time with Edie, the named plaintiff in the second case, Windsor v. United States.


Aaron Tax and Edie Windsor


Continue reading "Inside the Supreme Court Marriage Equality Hearings" »

March 27, 2013

Edie’s Day in Court

Today the Supreme Court will hear the case United States v. Windsor, the indomitable Edie Windsor’s challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Her case highlights how DOMA prevents older same-sex couples from equal access to key supports like Social Security, Medicaid, veterans benefits and retiree benefits like spousal health care coverage—which has real and lasting impacts on LGBT elder’s health and financial security. As Edie takes her fight—which has become the fight of all LGBT older people—to our nation’s highest court, SAGE is proud to stand alongside her.

Continue reading "Edie’s Day in Court" »