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March 22, 2017

Online Extra: Gays Across America: Advocates worry about impact on federal funding for seniors

Bay Area Reporter
By Seth Hemmelgarn
Advocates are criticizing the Trump administration's decision to remove questions about LGBTQ seniors from a federal care survey.

The Health and Human Services' Administration for Community Living took out a question related to sexual orientation from the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants. The removal is the only update to the annual survey, which is geared at people who receive services under the Older Americans Act.

Through the survey, data is collected on service gaps and performance outcomes, and the survey helps determine spending on programs for seniors, including Meals on Wheels and other services.

"Our community fought for years to get our LGBT elders included in this survey so they get their fair share of government-funded elder services," said a statement from the national group Services and Advocacy for LGBT Elders, or SAGE. "We won that fight, and we're not going back."

Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, said in a news release Monday (March 20), "The Trump administration is literally attempting to erase the LGBTQ community from the fabric of American history. Our LGBTQ seniors, many of whom survived the HIV and AIDS epidemic, do not deserve to have the government once again brush them off from obtaining transportation services, caregiver support, and even delivered meals that fit their needs. Access to these services is an American right, and this heartless move proves how anti-LGBTQ the Trump administration has always been from Day One."

David Stacy, government affairs director for the national Human Rights Campaign, stated, "Today, there are an estimated 1.5 million LGBTQ seniors in America. This is an extremely vulnerable population, many of whom will have to face the challenges of advanced age or illness without the traditional support systems and legal protections that other seniors can take for granted."

Without the data, Stacy said, "Policymakers and advocates cannot know the extent of the problems they face. HRC implores the Trump administration to add this crucial question back to the NSOAAP and expand their questions to include data collection on gender identity."

HRC noted that several U.S. agencies have taken steps to collect LGBTQ-related data, including the Department of Education, which asks about sexual orientation and gender identity in its surveys on school crime and safety. 

Republican Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin signed into law Senate Bill 17, which allows student groups at high schools, colleges, and universities to ban LGBTQ students.

"Governor Bevin's shameful decision to sign this discriminatory bill into law jeopardizes non-discrimination policies at public high schools, colleges, and universities," HRC legal director Sarah Warbelow said in a news release. "No student should fear being excluded from a school club or participating in a school activity because they are LGBTQ. While of course private groups should have the freedom to express religious viewpoints, they should not be able to unfairly discriminate with taxpayer funds."

Many public colleges and universities have had "all-comers" policies that prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination of student groups that get financial aid and other support from the schools, HRC noted.

"These policies are important because they allow all members of the student body to participate in students groups and prevent such groups from discriminating against students with state funding," the LGBT lobbying organization said.

A statement from Bevin's office wasn't available but according to WUKY at the University of Kentucky, Republican state Senator Albert Robinson, SB 17's sponsor, said the law "only rewords and codifies protections already present in the state Constitution."

"We know that the Muslims already they can freely express [their beliefs]," Robinson said, referring to the law's religious provisions. "They have that constitutional right. They should be able to do that, but we Christians, we're the ones that have been persecuted and to the point we'll be prosecuted if we didn't keep our mouth shut."

Read the original article online here.

Media Inquiries

Christina DaCosta
Director of Communications
917-553-3328
cdacosta@sageusa.org

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