New Jersey is one of four states leading the charge against discrimination based on sexual orientation in long-term care facilities. In March of this year, Governor Murphy signed S2545/A4388, known as the LGBTQI+ Senior Bill of Rights, into law. The new law, similar to those in Massachusetts, California, and Illinois, bans discrimination in long-term care communities based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
The significance of the LGBTQI+ Senior Bill of Rights is twofold. First, it mandates the staff and administration of long-term care communities receive training on caring for and preventing discrimination against LGBTQI+ seniors. Secondly, the law establishes the LGBTQI+ Senior Bill of Rights by prohibiting long-term care facilities’ staff from taking any of the following actions based on a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, intersex status, or HIV status:
- Denying admission to, transferring, discharging, or evicting a resident;
- Opposing a request by residents to share a room;
- Assigning or reassigning a room based on gender;
- Forbidding a resident from using a restroom based on gender;
- Repeatedly failing to use a resident’s chosen name or pronouns despite being informed;
- Denying a resident from wearing clothing, accessories, or cosmetics of their choice;
- Restricting a resident’s right to engage with other residents or with visitors;
- Denying, restricting, or providing unequal medical or non-medical care; and
- Declining to provide any service, care, or reasonable accommodation.
Failure to comply with these requirements, even if it is only one staff member, triggers penalties and administrative action by the Department of Health.
My colleagues Manon Adcock and Kathleen Magee have recently written about the profound challenges the LGBTQ+ aging community experience and the need for advocacy. While laws alone cannot cure systemic discrimination and feelings of isolation among LGBTQ+ seniors, it is a step toward enabling all seniors to age with dignity and security.