Federal legislation has been introduced this month to amend the Older Americans Act to provide equal treatment of LGBT older adults. The LGBT Elder Americans Act of 2017, sponsored by Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), would include LGBT older adults as a vulnerable population under the Older Americans Act of 1965.

The legislation would also permanently establish the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, the country’s first and only technical assistance resource center aimed at improving the quality of services and support for older LGBT adults.

The bill would prioritize research and development grants for organizations working to improve LGBT health, long-term care needs, and access to culturally-responsive services. It would direct the federal government to collect and analyze data relating to discrimination against LGBT older individuals on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

The co-sponsors of the bill are Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Edward Markey (D-MA), Al Franken (D-MN), and Robert Casey (D-PA). A companion bill, the “Ruthie and Connie LGBT Elder Americans Act of 2017” was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-1).

After being introduced in the Senate, the bill was referred to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee. Senator Bennet first introduced this bill in 2012 and again in 2015, though it did not make it out of the HELP Committee.

It is unlikely that the bill is taken up for a vote in the HELP Committee, given the Republican majority in Congress and the HELP Committee being chaired by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Still, it is important that Senator Alexander and others are on the HELP Committee hear support for this proposed legislation.  You can contact Senator Alexander here and request that the LGBT Elder Americans Act of 2017 be taken up for a vote in the HELP Committee.

You can also show your support by thanking Senator Bennet for introducing this legislation – he can be contacted here. Pennsylvania residents in particular should thank Senator Casey for co-sponsoring this bill through the contact form on his website.

The full text of the Senate bill is available at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/2089/text.

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