New York State lawmakers pass LGBTQ and HIV long-term care residents’ bill of rights

Long-term care facilities serving LGBTQ people and people living with HIV would face new regulations under legislation passed during the home stretch of the legislative session.
Long-term care facilities serving LGBTQ people and people living with HIV would face new regulations under legislation passed during the home stretch of the legislative session.
CC-BY-SA-3.0/Matt H. Wade

New York State lawmakers this month approved legislation establishing a bill of rights for LGBTQ people and individuals living with HIV who live in long-term care facilities. The bill bars discrimination against potential residents based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or HIV status.

With the ongoing crisis of transphobic rhetoric and legislation around the country, the bill seeks to ensure the rights of transgender individuals living in these facilities, from using the correct names and pronouns to warning against any malpractice or disregard as a result of transphobic ideology.

Among other requirements, according to the bill, the measure also bans facilities from denying admission or requests to share a room; affirms the right of residents to use bathrooms in accordance with their gender identity; and bans restrictions on a resident’s right to associate with other residents, including consensual sexual relations. Residents also cannot be denied the right to wear clothing, accessories, or cosmetics that are allowed for any other resident.

The legislation was led by out State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal of Manhattan and out Assemblymember Harry Bronson of Rochester.

“While acceptance of LGBTQ individuals has grown in recent years, too often the clock winds back for LGBTQ elders entering long-term care,” Hoylman-Sigal said in a written statement. “Eighty percent of LGBTQ adults in long-term care facilities hide their orientation when they move into a facility out of fear of discrimination. Our bill works to reverse this trend.”

Hoylman-Sigal praised State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, SAGE, Equality New York, and New Pride Agenda for their support of the bill.

“Thank you, Assemblymember Bronson and Senator Hoylman-Sigal, for championing this bill that empowers LGBTQ+ elders to be open about their identities without fear of discrimination and addresses the stigma that unjustly impacts New Yorkers living with HIV in these settings,” Darcy Connors, SAGEServes executive director, said in a written statement. “LGBTQ+ elders and those living with HIV have waited far too long for these safeguards that enable them to age with the dignity and respect they deserve. We urge Governor Kathy Hochul to sign this bill into law so that long-term care facilities across the state are welcome and accessible to our pioneers.”

The bill was inspired by a 2011 study by the National Senior Citizens Law Center, the National LGBTQ Task Force, Services & Advocacy for LGBT Elders (SAGE), Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the National Center for Transgender Equality. Older LGBTQ+ residents who participated in the study expressed discomfort about sharing their sexual orientation and gender identity with the staff at their long-term care facility.

“The findings of the report showed that 78% of LGBT seniors felt that they could not be open with the staff of a long-term care facility about their sexual orientation or gender identity, and a majority of all respondents identified discrimination by staff (89%), discrimination by other residents (81%), isolation from other residents (77%), and abuse or neglect by staff (53%) as issues that LGBT seniors face in long-term care facilities,” the bill stated.

The bill now goes to the governor’s desk to be signed.