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ENDA was focus of Log Cabin meeting with Romney

No commitments on specific legislation

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R. Clarke Cooper, Mitt Romney, Jim Kolbe, Republican Party, Election 2012, Log Cabin Republicans, gay news, Washington Blade

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (center) with Log Cabin’s R. Clarke Cooper (left) and former U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe (photo courtesy Log Cabin)

A meeting that took place at a Virginia farmhouse between officials from Log Cabin Republicans and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney included a discussion about workplace non-discrimination, but attendees who spoke to the Washington Blade wouldn’t enumerate any commitments made by Romney.

R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin’s executive director, said workplace non-discrimination protections were the focus of the meeting, which took place Oct. 17 at Greenwood Farm in Leesburg, Va., which was a precursor the organization’s endorsement of the candidate announced on Tuesday.

The Log Cabin chief was non-commital when asked if he gathered from the meeting that Romney would sign a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act if it reached his desk.

“I can say with confidence that the Romney administration would work on desirable outcomes for workplace non-discrimination,” Cooper said. “I’m going to leave it broad like that because I think there’s room for administrative action as well as legislative. I also think it’s probably fair to say that legislation in a form of an ENDA or an ENDA-like legislation is certainly realistic.”

The Nation’s Ben Adler reported that Romney secretly promised Log Cabin he would sign ENDA, but doesn’t want to make that position public for fear of upsetting the religious right. Nowhere in the current version of The Nation’s piece does Cooper say he received a commitment on ENDA. In conversations with the Blade, Cooper insisted Romney never committed to signing any legislation.

Previously, the Washington Blade reported Log Cabin was seeking clarity on ENDA before making its endorsement decision. Romney supported the legislation as a U.S. Senate candidate in 1994, but in later years backed away from that support. The GOP nominee hasn’t addressed the legislation over the course of the 2012 presidential campaign.

During the meeting, Cooper said Romney was “very interested” in talking about different state laws on workplace discrimination for LGBT people. A total of 21 states have laws barring job discrimination against gay, lesbian and bisexual people; 16 states and D.C. protect all LGBT people from job bias.

“He is aware that there is a kind of patchwork or quilt of states that don’t, and that inequity was something of discussion,” Cooper said. “Some states have it, and some states don’t and this is where it gets confusing and problematic from an administrative standpoint as well.”

Cooper said he impressed upon Romney that ENDA would be consistent with his goals for economic stimulus and job growth because many major businesses have non-discrimination policies in place and discrimination may be preventing LGBT Americans from entering the workforce.

Asked if there was any portion of the current version of the legislation to which Romney objected, Cooper said Romney didn’t express concern about any particular language and did not object to protecting people from discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

According to Cooper, the Romney campaign took the lead in initiating the meeting — not Log Cabin — after a series of discussions between the group and the campaign. Those in attendance at the meeting, which lasted about 15 minutes, were Romney, gay former U.S. House Rep. Jim Kolbe and Log Cabin staffer Casey Pick and a Romney staffer. Neither Cooper nor Kolbe would identify the campaign staffer who accompanied Romney.

Kolbe, a Log Cabin member who’s also a trustee of the organization, stopped short of saying Romney offered any firm commitments on federal workplace non-discrimination protections, but said they were discussed during the meeting.

“He gave us a firm personal view of opposing workplace discrimination without endorsing ENDA specifically,” Kolbe said. “I think that it’s an area of opportunity where we have an opportunity to make a lot of headway with him.”

Kolbe said he also brought up immigration issues affecting same-sex couples — such as the inability of gay Americans to sponsor their foreign partners for residency. Kolbe faces that problem with his own partner, Hector Alfonso. Kolbe said Romney acknowledged him by nodding, but offered no further response.

According to Cooper, the meeting was a culmination of discussions that took place between between Log Cabin and the Romney campaign on issues of concern to the organization — including LGBT issues — over the course of the year.

Cooper said he’s previously spoken to Romney — notably during an exchange following the candidate’s speech at the Conservative Political Action Committee where the Log Cabin chief said he disagreed with him on the Defense of Marriage Act — but the exchange at the farmhouse was their most extensive meeting.

“That was the most substantive meeting that we had with them,” Cooper said. “That was the culmination from dialogue meetings and information exchanges with various personnel on the campaign.”

One option that the White House has said President Obama would not take at this time is an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers. Both Cooper and Kolbe said that directive wasn’t discussed at the meeting, but Log Cabin has engaged with the Romney campaign previously on the issue.

Asked if the Romney campaign has offered any commitment on the executive order, Cooper replied that it would be in line with the candidate’s position that he opposes discrimination.

“I don’t want to get ahead of the governor on this, but I can tell you that was something on the table,” Cooper said.

While shying away from making any firm commitments on workplace protections, Cooper said Romney was firm deciding not to overturn “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal or hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples, which the Obama administration already mandated for hospitals receiving Medicare and Medicaid funds.

Both positions were articulated by Romney before, but Romney’s commitment to the latter came into question over the weekend when Romney adviser Bay Buchanan told Buzzfeed on Saturday Romney still supports a Federal Marriage Amendment, but believes hospital visitation should be determined by the states under the Tenth Amendment.

“There’s not going to be a retreat by President Romney on repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Cooper said. “There’s not going to be a retreat on hospital visitation.”

Cooper said he didn’t get a sense from Romney on how high a priority passing a Federal Marriage Amendment would be for the candidate, but said he impressed upon Romney the organization’s desire to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

“We were very, very clear not only to Gov. Romney, but to the campaign staff that were working to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act,” Cooper said. “That was part of our legislative portfolio. They clearly understood that.”

The Romney campaign didn’t immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment on the meeting.

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14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Noah Samuels

    October 24, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    So basically nothing substantial came out of that meeting except that he would keep President Obama's historic LGBT protections, already enacted, in place. Spare me.

  2. John R Costello

    October 24, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    ahh the Jews for Hitler begging for crumbs.

  3. Scott Rose

    October 24, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    The problem with the Soggy Noggin Rethugliturds' endorsement of Shitt Wrongmoney is that it gives Shitt Wrongmoney a false cover to claim that a gay-rights-interest group endorsed him. There is nothing about the Soggy Noggins' endorsement that speaks to any identifiable and testable claim that Shitt Wrongmoney would advance LGBTers' rights. That is to say, nothing about their endorsement has the least thing to do with advancing gay rights. The endorsement is not at all based on gay rights. The Soggy Noggin Rethugliturds have no claim to making this endorsement on any gay-rights-related basis. They are as phony as Shitt Wrongmoney himself.

  4. Michael La Rocca

    October 24, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS… FOR SHAME!

    I can understand someone wanting to be a member of the Republican Party for economic reasons, because they are a Pro-Life individual, or because they are conservative in some of their values. However, for the life of me, I cannot comprehend how any self-respecting Gay person would want to be a member of a political party that vehemently refuses to allow you equal rights, especially when it comes to marriage. I feel that these Gay men and women have serious self-esteem issues.

    “Coming Out” of the closet can be difficult. We are surrounded with straight stereotypes in the media, at home with family, at school, and especially in our religious institutions. We are taught that straight is “normal”, and our orientation is “sinful”, “a choice”, and if we don’t change we are “going to hell”. One must come to a sense of loving self-acceptance to combat the negativity we have to deal with. I believe that Log Cabin Republicans have missed the loving self-acceptance step.

    The 2012 Republican Party platform infers that they will establish a Constitutional Amendment banning Gay Marriage. Furthermore, they want the Amendment to state that the institution of Marriage is only between a man and a woman. When people hate the essence of who you are, how can you possible support and participate with that group? It would be like an African-American wanting to join the Ku Klux Klan because they like the barbecues the KKK have. Are you serious Log Cabin Republicans? Wake up and smell the hatred!

    Please don’t tell me that being Gay is only part of who you are. It is not “part” of who you are… it IS who you are! This is the way you were born. This is what God has made you, and wants you to be. Realize that when someone or some organization will not completely accept you for whom you are… if they will not allow you, and fight for you to have equal rights, and equal protection under the law… if they infer that you are “less than” they are… then you must, in no uncertain terms say, “F**K YOU” and walk away!

    I don’t care how much you like their economic views. I don’t care how much you like their position against abortion. I don’t care conservative you are. They essentially despise who you are! Do you realize that? This issue, as you can tell, makes me very, very angry. Here I am fighting for equal rights for my Gay brothers and sisters, and here you are voting for, and supporting a party that would rather just not have to deal with you at all.

    When you hear your candidate stating that he feels Marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman… hide your head in shame, because you will be voting for him… and YOU are allowing the bigotry to continue!

    I’m Michael LaRocca, and I approve this message.

    • Steven Bruce

      November 7, 2012 at 6:54 pm

      maybe because being against gay marriage isn't what defines the republican party just as being gay doesn't is only one aspect of who these people are. They can see there is bigger and more important things going on in this country unrelated to who you sleep with or where you stick your dick.

    • Michael La Rocca

      November 7, 2012 at 7:14 pm

      Steven Bruce Being gay is not just who you sleep with or where you stick your dick.Being gay is who God made us to be. We cannot change that. I can appreciate there being more to a voters decision, but not when people deny you civil rights. That to me is the bigger issue.

    • Steven Bruce

      November 7, 2012 at 7:23 pm

      I've got a better solution for gay marriage. Get government out of marriage entirely. Why is marriage a license? Licenses can be revoked or denied. The entire reason government got into the business of marriage was to be able to deny or revoke BASED ON RACE. It's time to put marriage back where it belongs; in the churches of it's respective cults. Straights are fleeing from marriage already. It's a terrible deal in this modern age and you don't need to tell someone that you love them in front of friends and family.

  5. Cheryl Courtney-Evans

    October 24, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    THIS IS SUCH A JOKE! They're [Log Cabin Repubs] calling 15 MINUTES a "substantive meeting"? How in HELL can ANY comprehensive strategies around LBGT issues be decided in that length of time, let alone trusting a man who feels the meeting has to be "in secret"? If he'll change positions quite publicly that he has taken publicly, what makes these fools think he will "honor" any position he's 'nodded to' in secret? LMAO @ this Log Cabin foolishness to justify supporting this man & party that would not even allow them to join in at their CPAC meeting this year…SMDH. The Log Cabin Republicans are some of the most delusional folks I can imagine…and should the worst happen (if Romney/Ryan make it to the White House), they'll stand with egg on their face as Rethuglifools re-instate DADT and pass the Federal Marriage Amendment…looks like us Dems will have to stop this from happening and save them from themselves and the party they insist on supporting.

  6. Sweetfunkystuff

    October 24, 2012 at 11:52 pm

    “Kolbe said he also brought up immigration issues affecting same-sex couples — such as the inability of gay Americans to sponsor their foreign partners for residency. Kolbe faces that problem with his own partner, Hector Alfonso. Kolbe said Romney acknowledged him by nodding, but offered no further response.” ———- That alone should tell you what kind of guy this is. He NODDED? He met with them for FIFTEEN minutes, and they’re as giddy as schoolgirls? OMG! LMAO!

  7. John R Costello

    October 25, 2012 at 11:49 am

    ohh golly gee willickers….they LCR's bow and kiss the ass of the GOP for possibly "allowing " them hospital visits…well gosh, thank u sooo much (sarcasm) FU LCR.

  8. Rebecca Juro

    October 25, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Isn't it just unbelievably sad that with the economy being what it is, with what the polls that have told us what LGBT Americans are voting on during this election, the only people in this election who are talking about ENDA and anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace are Republicans? Obama and the Democrats should be ashamed of themselves for not even bothering to so much as publicly offer themselves as a better alternative on this issue.

    And then they wonder why they're not seeing the kind of enthusiasm for Obama from LGBT voters which we saw in 2008. Right here, in a nutshell, is exactly why that's the case: They're not speaking to the issue which is most relevant to the lives of the LGBT working class.

    • Daniel English

      October 29, 2012 at 5:45 pm

      Please I have plenty of friends from all walks of life that advocate for Obama and the work he has done. If you wish to be a cash cow for Republicans and still end up being disrespected go join the Log Cabin. Here are some of the things Obama has done for the LGBT community. If you find that Republicans have done better then be my guest and reply:

      The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) adopted a regulation ending the ban on HIV-positive visitors and immigrants.
      President Obama issued Presidential Memorandum in April 2010 directing HHS to issue regulations requiring all hospitals receiving Medicaid and Medicare to prohibit discrimination in visitation against LGBT people. HHS issued a final regulation that went into effect in early 2011.
      HUD issued final regulations in January 2012 prohibiting discrimination in federal public housing programs and federally insured mortgage loans. HUD also requires its grantees to comply with LGBT-inclusive state and local housing discrimination protections.
      The Office of Personnel Management published final regulations in the Federal Register expanding the eligibility for long-term care coverage to same-sex partners and sick leave to care for a same-sex partner.
      The federal Prison Rape Elimination Commission proposed national standards to reduce sexual abuse in correctional facilities, including standards regarding LGBT and intersex inmates. They were later instituted as a rule finalized by the Justice Department last month.
      Sub-Regulatory Guidance/Policy Announcements
      These are policy advances instituted by — and subject to the will of — the administration.
      The Department of Health and Human Services revised its funding guidance around abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education programs, requiring that recipient programs are inclusive of and non-stigmatizing toward LGBT youth.
      HHS, in partnership with the Department of Education and Department of Justice, launchedstopbullyingnow.com.
      The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency recently released new 2011 Performance Based National Detention Standards. These new standards provide guidance that aims to improve treatment of LGBT and HIV-positive people in detention facilities.
      In summer 2011, ICE published a memo and clarifying guidance providing that an individual’s family relationships, including a same-sex relationship, would be considered as a factor in labeling certain deportations as low-priority deportations.
      The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol announced a proposed regulatory change expanding the meaning of “members of a family residing in one household” for the purposes of the customs declaration form, which must be completed prior to re-entry to the United States.
      The DOJ issued an opinion clarifying that the criminal provisions of the Violence Against Women Act related to stalking and abuse apply equally to same-sex partners.
      The State Department revised the standards for changing a gender marker on a passport, making the process less burdensome for transgender people.
      In September 2011, the Social Security Administration confirmed that it ended the practice of allowing gender to be matched in its Social Security Number Verification System (SSNVS). This resulted in the immediate cessation of SSA sending notifications that alert employers when the gender marker on an employee’s W-2 does not match Social Security records.
      The State Department extended numerous benefits to the partners of Foreign Service officers, including diplomatic passports and access to emergency evacuation.
      The State Department reversed a Bush administration policy that refused to use a same-sex marriage license as evidence of a name change for passports.
      The Department of Education issued guidance clarifying when student bullying may violate federal law, distributed a memo outlining key components of strong state anti-bullying laws and policies and made clear to public schools that gay-straight alliances have a right to form and meet.
      The Department of Education published guidance and, in coordination with the Department of Justice, has pursued Title IX complaints filed by LGBT students experiencing harassment based on sex or sex stereotyping.
      OPM added gender identity to the equal employment opportunity policy governing all federal jobs.
      The Department of Labor issued guidance clarifying that an employee can take time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act to care for a same-sex partner’s child.
      The IRS clarified that domestic partners (and their children) can be designated beneficiaries for VEBA funding/payment purposes.
      The Census Bureau overturned the Bush administration’s interpretation of the Defense of Marriage Act and agreed to release data on married same-sex couples along with other demographic information from the 2010 Census.

  9. DulyNoted

    October 25, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    Best analogy I’ve seen yet: “It’s like voting for George Wallace during the civil rights movement and apologizing for his racism.” Pulitzer prize winning playwrite Doug Wright from a message now going viral on FaceBook.

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N.C. lieutenant governor compares gays to cow feces, maggots

“If homosexuality is of God, what purpose does it serve? What does it make? What does it create? It creates nothing,” Robinson said

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North Carolina Lt. Governor Mark Robinson (Blade file photo)

WINSTON-SALEM – Speaking to parishioners at the Berean Baptist Church in Winston-Salem last Sunday, November 14, North Carolina Lt. Governor Mark Robinson attacked the LGBTQ+ community in remarks caught on the church’s livestreaming video on YouTube.

Robinson said in his sermon that he questioned the “purpose” of being gay; said heterosexual couples are “superior” to gay couples; and that he didn’t want to explain to his grandchildren why two men are kissing if they see that on television the Charlotte Observer reported.

The state’s Republican Lt. Governor then went on to compare being gay to “what the cows leave behind” as well as maggots and flies, who he said all serve a purpose in God’s creation. “If homosexuality is of God, what purpose does it serve? What does it make? What does it create? It creates nothing,” Robinson said.

Democratic lawmakers expressed their outrage on Twitter:

According to the Observer, “The video was distributed Friday by a pastor at St. John’s Metropolitan Community Church in Raleigh, the day before the Transgender Day of Remembrance. A protest rally was held Friday in front of Robinson’s office, but organizers also read the names of transgender people who have been killed.

This man’s theology and religious practices are not only flawed and a perversion of the Christian tenets; he places countless people at risk of violent attacks and even murder every time he opens his mouth,” said Vance Haywood, senior pastor at St. John’s, in a statement.

Robinson is expected to run for the governor’s chair in 2024. In another video of the sermon captured the Lt. Governor ranting in transphobic terms his opinion of the Trans community:

North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (Twitter Video)

Video of remarks made by North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson courtesy of the Charlotte Observer.

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LGBTQ elder care facilities open nationwide, but discrimination persists

Advocates say seniors face challenges despite groundbreaking advances

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The Ariadne Getty Foundation Senior Housing facility opened this week in Los Angeles. (Blade file photo)

Marsha Wetzel, an out lesbian, shared her life with her partner of 30 years, Judith Kahn, at the couple’s home in Illinois until Kahn died in 2013 of colon cancer.

As is the case with some same-sex couples who never married, Kahn’s family took legal possession of the couple’s home several years later, forcing Wetzel, who suffered from severe arthritis, to move into the Glen St. Andrew Living Community, a retirement and assisted living facility in Niles, Ill.

According to a lawsuit filed on her behalf in 2016 by the LGBTQ litigation group Lambda Legal, when word got out that Wetzel was a lesbian after she disclosed her sexual orientation to a fellow resident, she was called homophobic slurs, spat on, and assaulted on several occasions by other residents of the facility. The lawsuit, which later resulted in a court ruling in Wetzel’s favor, charged that officials at the Glen St. Andrew facility illegally failed to take action to prevent Wetzel from being subjected to abuse and threats by fellow residents and retaliated against her when she complained.

Lambda Legal announced one year ago, on Nov. 20, 2020, that Wetzel passed away at the age of 73 of natural causes after a landmark 2018 appeals court ruling in her favor affirmed that residential facilities such as the one in which she lived are legally responsible for the safety of tenant residents.

“Marsha spent the rest of her days in a senior living community where she was out and affirmed,” said Lambda Legal attorney Karen Loewy, who represented Wetzel in the lawsuit.

Advocates for LGBTQ seniors were hopeful that the 2018 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruling in the Wetzel case would speed up the gradual but steady advances in the rights of LGBTQ elders in long-term care facilities and in society in general.

A short time later, the New York City-based national LGBTQ elder advocacy group SAGE expanded its programs providing cultural competency training for the nation’s long-term care residential facilities. And in some cities, including New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, LGBTQ specific retirement and long-term care facilities began to open to provide LGBTQ elders with a wide range of “wrap around” services in addition to a safe place to live.

But LGBTQ elder advocates were taken aback in October of this year when news surfaced that transgender U.S. Army veteran Lisa Oakley, 68, was denied placement in more than two-dozen long-term care facilities in Colorado in 2020 and earlier this year.

“When they found out I was transgender, a lot of the facilities didn’t want me,” Oakley told USA Today. “A lot of transgender people, I’m sure, face the same thing,” she said. “We’re humans, just like everybody else.” 

Oakley told other media outlets her ordeal in trying to gain admission to a residential care facility began in October 2020, when she became unable to care for herself due to complications from diabetes. Her first choice was a facility in her hometown in rural Craig, Colo., where she had lived for the previous 25 years. She believes that facility turned her down because of her gender identity.

A social worker who assisted in Oakley’s applications for long-term care facilities said the facility in Craig said Oakley would have to be placed in a private room, which was at the time unavailable, “because she still has her ‘boy parts’ and cannot be placed with a woman” in a shared room. 

Many other Colorado facilities to which Oakley applied for admission, according to social worker Cori Martin-Crawford, cited the COVID pandemic as the reason for not accepting new residents. But as COVID related restrictions began to subside, other facilities continued to deny Oakley admission.

With Martin-Crawford’s help, Oakley finally found a facility that is LGBTQ supportive in Grand Junction, Colo., which is nearly three hours away from her hometown of Craig, where she had hoped to remain.

LGBTQ activists expressed concern that the discrimination that Oakley faced took place in the state of Colorado, which has a state law that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Experts familiar with long-term care facilities for older adults have said many private elder care facilities can get around state LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws by claiming other reasons for turning down an LGBTQ person.

Michael Adams, the CEO of SAGE, told the Blade that the wide range of programs and initiatives put in place by SAGE and other groups advocating for LGBTQ elders in recent years have resulted in significant changes in support of LGBTQ seniors.

“It is the case now that in almost all states there are one or more elder care facilities that have been trained through our SAGECare program,” Adams said. “But it’s nowhere near what it needs to be,” he said. “It needs to be that there are welcoming elder care facilities in every single community in this country” for LGBTQ elders.

Adams was referring to the SAGE program started recently called SAGECare that arranges for employees and other officials at elder care facilities throughout the country to receive LGBTQ competency training. The facilities that participate in the program are designated “SAGECare credentialed,” and are included in SAGE database lists available to LGBTQ elders looking for a safe facility in which to reside.

SAGE spokesperson Christina Da Costa provided the Blade with data showing there have been 136,975 professionals trained at a total of 617 SAGECare credentialed organizations nationwide. Out of 617 organizations, 172 are residential communities. Also, out of the total of 617 are 167 Area Agencies on Aging, Aging and Disability Resource Centers, Senior Centers, and senior Ombudsman offices.

Da Costa said 278 of the credentialed entities that have received the SAGECare training throughout the country are “other aging focused nonprofit and for-profit businesses.”

According to SAGE, there are 12 SAGECare credentialed elder care facilities or service providers operating in the D.C. metropolitan area, with two located in D.C. One of the D.C. facilities is Ingleside at Rock Creek, located in Northwest D.C., which is a residential facility. The other is Options for Senior America, a company that provides in-home care services for seniors, including seniors living in D.C.

A SAGE list of the D.C.-area SAGECare credentialed facilities shows that three are in Rockville, Md.; two are in Gaithersburg, Md.; and one each are in Bethesda, Md.; Arlington, Va.; and Alexandria, Va. The list shows that one of them that provides services to elders in the D.C. area is based in North Carolina.

SAGE has a separate list of the 15 elder care residential facilities in the U.S. created specifically to serve LGBTQ residents. 

None are in D.C., Maryland, or Virginia. However, SAGE says it has been working in cooperation with Mary’s House for Older Adults, a D.C.-based LGBTQ organization that advocates for LGBTQ seniors and is in the process of opening LGBTQ elder residential facilities in D.C. and others in the surrounding suburbs.

Mary’s House founder and CEO Dr. Imani Woody couldn’t immediately be reached to determine when the organization expects to open its first residential facility. 

While a residential LGBTQ elder facility has yet to open in the D.C. area, activists note that in addition to Mary’s House, services and amenities for LGBTQ elders in the area are currently being provided by the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community and Whitman-Walker Health, the LGBTQ supportive health center, which also has a legal services branch.

Adams of SAGE said the Los Angeles LGBTQ Center opened the nation’s first LGBTQ elder residential facility over eight years ago called Triangle Square. He said the L.A. Center opened a second LGBTQ elder residential facility a short time later. And this week, the L.A. Center announced it has opened a third LGBTQ elder residential facility in Hollywood that is part of a larger “intergenerational campus” that will bring together LGBTQ seniors and LGBTQ youth. 

SAGE, meanwhile, operates two LGBTQ elder long-term care residential facilities in New York City, one in Brooklyn called the Stonewall House and one in the Bronx called Pride House. 

The other U.S. cities with LGBTQ elder residential facilities include: Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco (which has two such facilities), San Diego, Houston, Fort Lauderdale, and Islip, N.Y.

Adams said the LGBTQ elder residential facilities range in size, with the largest – New York’s Stonewall House – having 143 apartments that can accommodate 200 residents. He said others vary from 40 or 50 residential units to 120.

Advocates for LGBTQ elders point to what they consider another important breakthrough for LGBTQ elders this year in the release of a joint SAGE-Human Rights Campaign Long-Term Care Equality Index report for 2021. Adams said the report is the first of what could become an annual report and rating and scorecard for long-term care elder residential facilities and other elder facilities. 

The 2021 report includes a self-reporting assessment of elder care facilities that the facilities themselves completed through a questionnaire in which many disclosed they have LGBTQ nondiscrimination policies for elders around admission to the facility and for practices by staff for those residing in their facilities.

The report includes a chart showing that 158 elder care facilities in 31 states responded positively to the outreach to them by organizers of the Long-Term Care Equality Index.

“We are thrilled to be working with SAGE and to be working with the Human Rights Campaign who are developing the Long-Term Care Equality Index,” said Nii-Quartelai Quartey, who serves as senior adviser and LGBTQ liaison for the American Association of Retired Persons or AARP.

“There is a great deal of work that we’re doing in the area of LGBTQ older adults nationwide,” Quartey told the Blade. “And AARP has been engaged with the LGBTQ community nationwide for many years now,” he said.

“In recent years, we’ve turned up the volume in working more closely with organizations like SAGE and Lambda Legal and the Victory Fund Institute, the Center for Black Equity, the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, and the Hispanic Federation.”

According to Quartey, a recent AARP study of LGBTQ elders called Maintaining Dignity shows that longstanding concerns of discrimination remain despite the many advances in support for LGBTQ seniors in recent years.

He said a survey that was part of the study found that 67 percent of the LGBTQ elders who responded, “were concerned about neglect in a long-term care setting.” Over 60 percent feared verbal or physical harassment in a long-term care setting and over half “felt forced to hide or deny their identity” as an LGBTQ person, Quartey said.

Another recent survey of LGBTQ elders conducted by SAGE asking them how they feel about the use of the word “queer” in descriptions of LGBTQ people yielded findings that came as a surprise to some, according to Adams. A large majority of those surveyed from across the country said they are “comfortable at this point using that word and reclaiming that word, which is different from what we had heard historically,” Adams said.

He said in response to those findings SAGE will now as an organization gradually shift to using the term LGBTQ instead of its past practice of using LGBT.

Although Congress has yet to pass the Equality Act, last year under the Trump Administration, Congress acted in a rare bipartisan way to approve the required five-year reauthorization of the U.S. Older Americans Act with new language supportive of LGBTQ older adults. President Trump signed the legislation.

The language includes a mandate for outreach to and reporting about services provided to LGBTQ older adults in federally funded programs. It also opens the way for LGBTQ older adults to be designated in a category of “greatest social need.” Under that category, older adults receive a higher priority in the allocation of resources by the federal government.

“We’ve come a long way, but we still have a way to go to get over the finish line,” said the AARP’s Quartey. “And aside from passing legislation federally and on the state and local level, we absolutely need to continue the hard work of changing hearts and minds,” he said.

Longtime gay activist and writer Brian McNaught, whose latest book, “On Being Gay and Gray – Our Stories, Gifts, and the Meaning of Our Lives,” was just released, says his own very informal survey of LGBTQ elders found there is a need for intimacy that may be too controversial for the establishment LGBTQ elder groups.

“I’m a SAGE volunteer and the 81-year-old man with whom I was working after his husband of 47 years died, said after his grieving process, ‘I want to be hugged and kissed. Does that make me a bad person?’”

McNaught told the Blade he assured the man those feelings do not make him a bad person. McNaught said the man’s comment prompted him to conduct further research, in which he found that some gay male elders in the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., area who often need assisted living support would like to patronize gay bathhouses or seek the services of an escort agency. He said he determined that any LGBTQ elder group providing such services would trigger “a huge uproar of protests” and most likely a loss of funding.

“We don’t want to talk about sexuality and aging,” McNaught said.

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Former VOA director nominated to head U.S. Agency for Global Media

Previous CEO’s actions threatened LGBTQ internet freedom

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(Public domain photo)

President Biden on Monday nominated Amanda Bennett, the former head of Voice of America and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, investigative journalist and editor, to lead the U.S. Agency for Global Media.

“I am honored by this nomination,” Bennett told Voice of America. “If confirmed, I will be so proud to work with all the dedicated journalists at USAGM who are doing the critical and difficult work around the world of upholding and demonstrating the value of a free press.”

The agency operates independently from the U.S. government and oversees five different entities that include Voice of America, broadcasting platforms and the Open Technology Fund. The fund is an independent non-profit organization that focuses on advancing global internet freedom by providing internet access, digital privacy tutorials, privacy enhancement and security tools like encryption.

These tools have been integral in preserving internet freedom for LGBTQ people abroad, especially in places where it’s unsafe or illegal to be LGBTQ.

Bennett, 69, was named VOA director in 2016 and resigned from her post in June 2020 after conservative documentary filmmaker Michael Pack was confirmed as the agency’s CEO during the Trump administration.

Under Pack’s tenure, several technology freedom experts said the former CEO thwarted the Open Technology Fund’s efforts abroad by freezing funds. Pack also ignored a House subpoena for an oversight hearing that was meant for him to address mass firings, withholding congressionally approved funds and other questionable activities.

Pack stepped down at Biden’s request in January, and the president named Kelu Chao, a VOA veteran journalist, as Pack’s replacement and interim CEO.

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