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Obama: Hagel’s 1998 anti-gay remarks don’t disqualify him for Cabinet role

POTUS says apology reflects ‘positive change’ on LGBT issues

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President Obama said  Hagel's 1998 comments against Hormel don't disqualify him for the position as defense secretary (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

President Obama said Hagel’s 1998 comments against Hormel don’t disqualify him for the position as defense secretary (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

President Obama said over the weekend during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he won’t rule out the nomination of former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel as defense secretary over anti-gay remarks he made in 1998.

Asked by host David Gregory about Hagel’s now high-profile reference to then-nominee for U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg James Hormel as “openly aggressively gay” — remarks for which Hagel has since apologized — Obama said he sees nothing in the former senator’s record that disqualifies him for the position.

“Not that I see,” Obama sad. “I served with Chuck Hagel. I know him. He’s a patriot. He is somebody who’s done extraordinary work in the United States Senate, somebody who served this country with valor in Vietnam. And somebody who’s currently serving on my intelligence advisory board doing an outstanding job.”

The 30-minute interview was taped on Saturday in the White House, but wasn’t broadcast on TV until Sunday morning.

Additionally, Obama commended Hagel for apologizing for the anti-gay comments. In a statement to media outlets earlier this month, Hagel apologized for the remarks and said he’s committed to LGBT military families. The apology was accepted by LGBT groups, such as the Human Rights Campaign and OutServe-SLDN.

“And I think it’s a testimony to what has been a positive change over the last decade in terms of people’s attitudes about gays and lesbians serving our country,” Obama said. “That’s something that I’m very proud to have led, and I think the anybody who’s serves in my administration understands my attitude and position on those issues.”

Obama’s remarks about the “positive change” in the country’s attitude toward gays and lesbians echoes similar comments he made during his recent interview with Time Magazine where he also noted the change in perception on LGBT issues.

Michael Cole-Schwartz, an HRC spokesperson, echoed the sense Hagel’s remarks reflect the country’s evolution as a whole on LGBT issues.

“As the President pointed out, we’ve seen a tremendous shift in attitudes on LGBT issues and we’re glad that Senator Hagel apologized for his statement and expressed his commitment to LGBT civil rights,” Cole-Schwartz said. “No matter who is the next defense secretary, we expect that person to ensure equal benefits for all military families and to carry out the President’s policies.”

Hagel’s 1998 anti-gay comments to the Omaha World-Herald have received significant attention in recent weeks amid reports that Obama is considering Hagel for the position of defense secretary.

Just last week, the National Log Cabin Republicans ran a full-page ad in the New York Times in opposition to Hagel on the basis of those anti-gay remarks and his earlier stated views on Israel and Iran. Cooper didn’t immediately respond on Sunday to a request to comment on Obama’s remarks.

Initially, the apology also riled Hormel. Immediately after it was issued, Hormel questioned the sincerity of the apology in interviews with the Washington Post and the Blade. However, he seemed to reverse himself in a Facebook posting hours later.

Watch the video of Obama’s remarks about Hagel here:

Will Obama introduce an LGBT-inclusive immigration plan?

Obama made additional comments relevant to the LGBT community during his “Meet the Press” interview when he said he would introduce immigration reform language during the first year of his term, raising the question of whether that measure will be inclusive of bi-national same-sex couples.

“I’ve said that fixing our broken immigration system is a top priority,” Obama said. “I will introduce legislation in the first year to get that done.”

LGBT advocates have seeking the passage of comprehensive immigration reform legislation that would include language allowing gay Americans to sponsor their partners for residency in the United States. Standalone legislation that would achieve the same goal is known as the Uniting American Families Act.

Steve Ralls, spokesperson for Immigration Equality, said he hopes any immigration measure that Obama directs Congress to pass will include protections for bi-national same-sex couples, who are currently in danger of separation if the foreign national in the relationship loses their immigration status.

“I was encouraged to hear the President list a comprehensive immigration reform bill among his top priorities for the new year,” Ralls said. “His support, and endorsement of, an LGBT-inclusive bill will be critical, and we hope to hear him call on Congress for a bill that includes UAFA sooner, rather than later.”

A UAFA-inclusive immigration bill would be consistent with other measures put forth on comprehensive immigration reform plans, including the guidelines proposed by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and earlier legislation introduced by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).

Ralls said conservatives have expressed opposition to an LGBT-inclusive immigration reform package, but he expects the White House to hold firm against demands to omit UAFA from the final package.

“We know there are anti-gay, right-wing religious groups who have been meeting with lawmakers and threatening to oppose an immigration reform effort if it includes UAFA,” Ralls said. “Those groups have insinuated they would be willing to oppose legislation even if it includes numerous provisions we all agree on — such as the DREAM Act and a pathway to citizenship — if gay couples are also included. We expect the White House to stand firm with our families, and work for a bill that, from the very outset, includes UAFA.”

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Michael Bedwell

    December 30, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    Yet more "Under the Bus" balderdash from our self-anointed "fierce ally for gay equality." There's no PROOF Hagel's apology particularly given he couldn't bother to express it to Hormel directly. Hormel's whiplash reversal of his perfectly founded criticism was a screamingly TRANSPARENT result of someone in Obama, Inc., having yanked his chain. Wasn't Mr. Obama's last Repug SECDEF, Robert Gates, bad enough? He claimed he'd changed HIS mind about gays, too, yet needlessly discharged some 800 more gay troops while cunningly pushing the DADT repeal bill to the edge of the legislative cliff, AND forcing our allies in Congress to gut it of any guarantee of equality IN the service just in case. He left office still REFUSING to implement repeal six months after the bill was passed. Even if Hagel HAS changed, NO Democratic President should be appointing a Repug SECDEF—THE most important position in his/her Cabinet—literally one of Life and Death. The WORST place for the charade of "Bipartisanship." Finally, how reprehensible to see that the "leaders" of the Community's PAID advocates at the Human Rights Champagne fund and OS-SLDN are still what they've been for the past four years—lapdogs barking on cue for anything Mr. Obama wants.

  2. Michael Bedwell

    December 30, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    Yet more "Under the Bus" balderdash from our self-anointed "fierce ally for gay equality." There's no PROOF Hagel's apology is sincere, particularly given he couldn't bother to express it to Hormel directly. Hormel's whiplash reversal of his perfectly founded criticism was a screamingly TRANSPARENT result of someone in Obama, Inc., having yanked his chain. Why didn't they pressure Hagel to contact Hormel rather than Hormel to shamelessly eat his words? Wasn't Mr. Obama's last Repug SECDEF, Robert Gates, bad enough? He claimed he'd changed HIS mind about gays, too, yet needlessly discharged some 800 more gay troops while cunningly pushing the DADT repeal bill to the edge of the legislative cliff, AND forcing our allies in Congress to gut it of any guarantee of equality IN the service just in case. He left office still REFUSING to implement repeal six months after the bill was passed. Even if Hagel HAS changed, NO Democratic President should be appointing a Repug SECDEF—THE most important position in his/her Cabinet—literally one of Life and Death. The WORST place for the charade of "Bipartisanship." Finally, how reprehensible to see that the "leaders" of the Community's PAID advocates at the Human Rights Champagne fund and OS-SLDN are still what they've been for the past four years—lapdogs barking on cue for anything Mr. Obama wants.

  3. Skeeter Sanders

    December 31, 2012 at 12:20 am

    A person can change his or her viewpoint over time. Public opinion on marriage rights for lesbian and gay couples is certainly changing from just five years ago. So I would be remiss if I didn’t give former Senator Chuck Hagel the benefit of a doubt — for now.

    I’m an openly bi man — who first came out of the closet as gay in 1978 and as bi in 1993 — whose own views on marriage equality have done a complete 180-degree turn in the last 14 years. As recently as 1999, I was strongly opposed to the idea of gay and lesbian couples getting married — but not for the same reason the Religious Right opposed it.

    Back then, I took a “queer nationalist” position on the idea, denouncing it as a “sellout to the heterosexist patriarchy” and a “betrayal of what it means to be queer in a straight-dominated society.”

    What changed my mind?

    The sheer ferocity of the Religious Right’s crusade against it — a crusade that reminded me, as an African-American, of the even more ferocious opposition by white supremacists to the Supreme Court’s landmark 1967 Loving v. Virginia decision that struck down laws in 16 states that barred interracial couples — including my African-American mother and American Indian father — from marrying and refused recognition of such marriages performed in states where they were already legal.

    That reminder prompted me to check myself. How could I — the son of interracial parents (who’s now in an interracial marriage of my own) — say “no” to gay and lesbian couples who love one another the same constitutionally protected right to marry that interracial, interfaith and binational couples have?

    If I can change my views on marriage equality, why can’t Senator Hagel change his?

  4. Jean Pierre Katz

    December 31, 2012 at 6:57 am

    Hagel's troglodyte record on gay rights is still an issue even though President Obama finds it very inconvenient as he would like to nominate Hagel tomorrow.

    It's not only about what he said many years ago, but that he has not come out for any specific or general commitment to equality for gay military families.

    In general for gays to accept Hagel, he must say that he would like to see DOMA overturned at the Supreme Court.

    But there are many ways a Secretary of Defense could help gay military families no matter how DOMA is decided and Hagel has not come out in favor of any of these.

    Reports to the contrary, LGBT equality is not yet a done deal in the military. There is still the matter of partner benefits. There still remain a handful of regulations that could be revised independent of the Defense of Marriage act that could bring some equity of compensation and benefits to gay and lesbian servicemembers. but remain denied due only to Department of Defense foot-dragging:

    Included in the discretionary benefits currently denied are spousal identication cards, cited in the Pentagon's own Working Group study as not requiring DOMA repeal to deliver.

  5. brian

    December 31, 2012 at 3:19 am

    President Obama’s attempt to paper over Hagel’s intentionally homophobic remarks to the World-Herald, attacking Ambassador Hormel for his sexual orientation, is a not-credible stretch for most LGBTs I suspect.

    Sure Hagel’s remarks were waay back in 1998. But a nakedly self-serving White House PR/ press-release apology– just a few weeks ago– rightly came off as insincere to many of us.

    No amount of clumsy hiney-covering by HRC and OutServe/SLDN makes it any better, BTW. Indeed, both organizations have lost credibility in this instance, too.

    Wouldn’t it have been far smarter for the WH to engage Ambassador Hormel directly at the start of this tortuous ‘trial baloon’ … with a REAL personal and public apology from Senator Hagel?

    How much better would it have been for both Senator Hagel’s and our president’s credibility to have Ambassador Hormel shaking hands with Hagel and personally endorsing him?

    Fact is this WH PR bungling continues to be disturbingly indicative of a stiff-arm, almost dismissive stance we’ve seen against LGBT people, interests and issues post-November.

    We need to keep drilling down past this new WH ‘spin’– and we need to keep demanding better of them.

    What did Chuck Hagel ever do on behalf of LGBT residents of Omaha, Lincoln or Grand Island after his attack on our first openly gay ambassador? Was Hagel truly a Senator who cared about his LGBT Nebraskans, too?

    Also– speaking of credibility– with the stroke of his pen, President Obama can, right now, end workplace anti-LGBT discrimination aided and abetted by the federal government he leads.

    When will you end federal contractor discrimination against LGBTs, Mr. President?

  6. Surely U Jest

    December 31, 2012 at 11:05 am

    What’s important here is that Hagel has publicly acknowledged that he “had” (or for that matter may still have) an anti-gay bias and understands the President’s expectations for how he is to execute his duties as Sec’y of Defense related to DADT.

    Do you think that every CEO of every corporation that has non-discrimation policies that protect their LGBT employees is not at all homophobic? Has every company that achieved a perfect score on the HRC Equality Index extricated every anti-gay bias or attitude from its leadership ranks? In 2002, only 13 businesses achieved a perfect score. Now there are 252. Do we celebrate where they are, or remind them of where they were? Did we ask them to apologize for their past ignorance before we bestowed accolades and rewarded them with our patronage?

    There are so many people watching now for any sign of biased action from Hagel, that we are more assured of his working to prove his detractors wrong, rather than providing them fodder for proving them correct. Hagel didn’t equivocate with “I am fully supportive of ‘open service’ and committed to LGBT military families.” John McCain never uttered anything close to that in 2008 and got endorsed by the very people whose signature issue was DADT repeal and are now deriding Hagel.

    So, if you have to choose between the President’s view of Hagel’s suitability to be Sec’y of Defense or that of LCR, the people who thought that a Romney presidency would be good for Gay Americans, or that John McCain would come around on DADT, is it even really a serious contest?

  7. hank kelly

    January 1, 2013 at 9:01 am

    Mr. Hagel said in his apology. “I am fully supportive of ‘open service’ and committed to L.G.B.T. military families” Let’s move on and not rub his nose in it. Hagel has moved on, evolved, and realizes the country has moved light years for gay rights since 1998. We should be more concerned about the neanderthals in congress who would return not only to 1998, but to pre-1993 when having sex with your gay partner was a criminal act.

    • brian

      January 2, 2013 at 2:33 pm

      It’s not a question of ‘rubbing his nose’ in a single comment. Hagel left the Senate just 4 short years ago– with a nearly perfect record of anti-LGBT civil rights naysaying and gay-bashing.

      The history of Washington is replete with insincere political hacks who flip-flop and give press-release-apologies when they’re wanted to fill a new power or political CYA position.

      This job is WAAY too important for that political nonsense. Even without Hagel’s record of homophobia, someone like Joe Sestak is far more qualified for Defense (Naval Academy, Harvard, Admiral).

      And the president ought to be reminded he’s been elected TWICE now– VERY solidly. Bin Laden sleeps with the fishes, and few doubt this president’s resolve to defend our country, as and when needed, as its well-proven Commander-In-Chief.

      Obama has serious national defense chops. He does not need a Republican or former-Republican beard at DOD at all.

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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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