Advocates for LGBT Seniors Fear Repercussions of Possible 'Religious Freedom' Executive Order
By Emily Mongan
The draft order, called “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to respect Religious Freedom,” would allow organizations to claim religious- and moral-based objections “when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments.”
Legal experts have described the draft order as “sweeping” and “staggering,” and have noted that order, if passed, would “go far beyond what the Supreme Court has identified as the limits of permissive religious accommodations,” the Nation reported.
Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders, or SAGE, released a statement Thursday indicating the order could allow hospitals, nursing homes and other elder care organizations to deny services and discriminate against LGBT seniors.
“Freedom of religion is an important, core American value,” the statement reads. “But it cannot be used to endorse profound discrimination and mistreatment of any community — including LGBT elders — in federally supported services and programs."
The group added that the implementation of the order “would not only stigmatize, but endanger the lives of LGBT elders,” and that it must “never see the light of day.”
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters last week that he wouldn't speculate on whether the order will be officially issued, but said “there [are] a lot of executive orders … that the president has talked about and will continue to fulfill.”
As speculation over the draft order circulated, a California lawmaker on Thursday introduced a “bill of rights” that would protect LGBT seniors residing in long-term care facilities against discrimination based on their gender identity, sexual orientation, gender expression and HIV status.
“[LGBT seniors] deserve to age with dignity and respect, and that means making sure our long-term care facilities have culturally competent policies and procedures in place,” said the bill's sponsor, State Sen. Scott Wiener (D - San Francisco). “While LGBT seniors face many of the same challenges that all seniors face, they also face unique challenges around discrimination, health, and potential lack of family support systems.”
Wiener's bill would require long-term care providers to address residents by the name and pronouns of their choosing, allow residents to use a bathroom of choice, allow residents the right to dress as they choose and not deny them appropriate medical care.