New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Nov. 30 signed a bill aimed at preventing discrimination against LGBTQ people and people living with HIV that are residents of long-term care facilities.
The legislation, dubbed the “LGBTQ+ Long-term Care Facility Residents’ Bill of Rights,” was introduced by out gay State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal of Manhattan and Assemblymember Harry Bronson of Rochester. It was approved by lawmakers in June.
Among other provisions, the bill prohibits long-term care providers from discriminating against patients by denying admission to a long-term facility, transferring or denying them transfer between facilities or within a facility, or discharging or evicting residents on the basis of their gender, sexual orientation or HIV status. The legislation also requires the facilities to allow residents to use the restroom of their choice, and forbids staff from “willfully and repeatedly [failing] to use a resident’s preferred name or pronouns.”
Additionally, the bill requires that facilities post a sign informing residents of its non-discrimination policies, including directions on how to report discrimination.
In light of increased transphobic rhetoric across the country and State Legislatures introducing a record number of anti-LGBTQ bills over the past year, the new law aims to protect LGBTQ people and people living with HIV from discrimination.
“LGBTQIA+ and HIV-positive seniors are among our most vulnerable populations,” Governor Hochul said in a written statement, “and today we are taking steps to ensure that all New Yorkers — regardless of who they are, who they love, or their HIV status — find safety and support in places where they need it the most.”
Hoylman-Sigal celebrated the new law as he pointed to the need to better serve queer older adults.
“There is a veritable ‘silver tsunami’ of complex issues as LGBTQ+ people with HIV are living longer, meaning that long-term care facilities with LGBTQ+ residents need to adjust to this welcome reality,” he said.
Hochul’s signature comes one day before World AIDS Day, which commemorates the lives of millions of people worldwide who have been impacted by HIV/AIDS.
“It is important to remember that HIV/AIDS still affects over 100,000 New Yorkers, and this bill goes a long way in recognizing the humanity and dignity of those living with HIV or AIDS,” Bronson said.
The bill cites a 2011 study of LGBTQ older people 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. In the study, 78% of older LGBTQ people surveyed said they did not feel like an LGBTQ person could be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity with staff at a long-term care facility.
The majority (57%) of people living with HIV in New York State are 50 years of age or older, according to 2022 surveillance data.
Darcy Connors, the executive director of SAGEServes, the direct services division of SAGE, the world’s largest organization serving and advocating for seniors in the LGBTQ community, also welcomed the new law.
“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,” she said.
The bill will go into effect 180 days after it was signed into law.