Connect with us

National

Kameny’s ashes still not buried 2 years after death

Activist says heir to estate may be responsible for delay in signing agreement

Published

on

Frank Kameny, gay news, Washington Blade
Frank Kameny, gay news, Washington Blade

Activist Frank Kameny died on Oct. 11, 2011. His remains have not yet been buried. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A memorial site recognizing the legacy of the late D.C. gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny was scheduled to be unveiled Friday, Oct. 11, in Chicago on the second anniversary of his death while plans for the burial of his ashes in Washington remain stalled.

New information behind that unusual turn of events emerged this week from one of the parties in a dispute over ownership of the planned interment site for Kameny’s ashes in D.C.’s historic Congressional Cemetery.

Marvin Carter, executive director of the local LGBT charitable group Helping Our Brothers and Sisters (HOBS), said his attorney told him an agreement reached about two months ago in which HOBS would transfer ownership of the cemetery plot to the Kameny estate was awaiting the signature of Timothy Clark, Kameny’s friend, housemate and principal heir to the estate.

“The last update I got was we are all in agreement but Ackerman Brown cannot find Clark to sign the paperwork,” Carter told the Blade.

Carter was referring to the D.C. law firm Ackerman Brown, which has represented Clark in legal matters pertaining to the estate since shortly after Kameny died in his home of natural causes on National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11, 2011. In his will, Kameny left his house and all other possessions except his voluminous gay rights papers to Clark. He bequeathed his papers to the Library of Congress. Kameny’s house sold last year for $725,000.

Glen Ackerman, managing partner of Ackerman Brown, emailed a statement to the Blade this week disputing Carter’s assertion that Clark can’t be found.

“Ackerman Brown is in regular contact with Timothy Clark, the personal representative of the Estate of Frank E. Kameny and all negotiations on behalf of our client have been in good faith,” the statement said. “The decision regarding interment of Frank Kameny’s ashes rests solely with Mr. Clark and he is discharging his duties with full knowledge of the past negotiations. Neither Marvin Carter nor his attorney have ever discussed the placement of a monument in lieu of the cemetery plot with Ackerman Brown.”

Ackerman noted that the status of the negotiations between Ackerman Brown and HOBS over the ownership transfer of the cemetery plot had not changed since July. At that time, Ackerman’s law partner, Christopher Brown, said a “tentative agreement” had been reached to end the dispute that has prevented Kameny’s ashes from being interred for nearly two years.

“The tentative agreement was reached on July 9 and the estate is awaiting further input from HOBS’ counsel that is necessary to finalize the transaction,” Brown said in a July 24 statement to the Blade.

“The estate has always been, and remains willing to work with gay community representatives who knew Frank Kameny in organizing a burial service and appropriate gravesite at which members of the community could pay tribute to Kameny,” Brown said in his July statement.

Earlier this year, Carter said HOBS dropped a previous condition that called for the Kameny estate to pay HOBS for the cemetery plot that HOBS purchased with money donated by members of the LGBT community.

“We are not asking for a dime from the estate,” Carter told the Blade in an Oct. 4 interview. “The delay is not on our end.”

Carter said that once the tentative agreement was reached the two parties asked Congressional Cemetery President Paul Williams to draft the documents needed to finalize the ownership transfer of the cemetery plot.

When contacted by the Blade last week, Williams said he could not provide details but suggested the long-awaited resolution to the dispute was in the hands of Clark and his attorneys.

“We have put forth a proposal to the estate and we’re waiting to hear back,” he said. “That’s about all I can say. We’re just waiting to hear back.”

Timothy Clark, gay news, gay politics dc

Timothy Clark (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Clark said in August, one day prior to Brown’s statement to the Blade, that he understood an agreement had been reached over the cemetery plot. He said he was thinking about when to arrange for a burial ceremony and that he would welcome suggestions from Kameny’s friends and fellow activists about the details for such a ceremony.

Clark didn’t respond to a phone message from the Blade this week.

HOBS and a group of Kameny’s friends and colleagues in the LGBT rights movement initially scheduled an interment ceremony for Kameny at Congressional Cemetery for March 3, 2012. At the time, Charles Francis, a Kameny friend who helped Kameny organize his papers to facilitate their donation to the Library of Congress, arranged for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide a military headstone for the gravesite that recognized Kameny’s service in the Army in World War II.

With money raised by HOBS, Francis and Kameny’s friends and fellow activists Rick Rosendall and Bob Witeck also arranged for the purchase of a separate headstone for the gravesite bearing the inscription “Gay is Good.” Kameny, who coined that slogan in the 1960s to advance the cause of gay rights, said it was something for which he wanted to be remembered as much if not more than any of his other accomplishments.

But just as both stones were placed at the gravesite, Witeck announced that the burial of Kameny’s ashes had been cancelled after the estate told the cemetery it would not release Kameny’s ashes until it obtained legal ownership of the burial plot from HOBS. Cemetery officials later removed the headstone and “Gay is Good” marker and placed them in storage, saying it was inappropriate for them to remain in place while the ownership of the gravesite was in dispute.

Michael Bedwell, a longtime friend and gay activist colleague of Kameny’s who helped select the gravesite, said the removal of the two stones displaced an important and historic site where people could go to reflect on Kameny’s accomplishments, which he said improved the lives of LGBT people.

“It is a disgrace that people don’t have a place to pay homage to him two years after his passing,” Bedwell said. “I feel those stones should be returned to the site even if the ashes are not interred there at this time.”

Tension between the Kameny estate and Carter, Francis, Witeck and Rosendall increased in the months following the cancellation of the burial when the estate sued the four men on grounds that they removed without permission items from Kameny’s house shortly after his death. The four said they removed the items for safekeeping at a time of confusion following Kameny’s death when Clark, who was living in the house at the time, gave them permission to enter the house to sort through Kameny’s belongings. They said they planned to return the items, some of which were papers slated to go to the Library of Congress.

Rosendall said this week that the men were accompanied by local attorney Michele Zavos when they entered Kameny’s house shortly after his death. Zavos had worked for Kameny and prepared his will, Rosendall said.

Zavos on Wednesday confirmed that she was present during that visit. She said Clark gave them permission to enter the house and that he understood that Rosendall and the other men wanted to look through Kameny’s papers and other historic items to take steps to preserve them.

According to Zavos, it was during that visit that Rosendall, Francis and Witeck found the original signed copy of Kameny’s will and turned it over to Zavos, who read and explained its provision to Clark.

“Tim was completely aware of what we were doing,” she said.

Rosendall added that he was especially troubled when Clark told the Blade in an interview in March 2012 that someone placed an anonymous letter in the mail slot at Kameny’s house where Clark was living that used a racial slur and denounced him for being the beneficiary in Kameny’s will.

“And that’s just horrible for anybody to say,” Clark said in the 2012 interview. “It said, ‘The nigger got everything.’”

When the Blade asked to see the letter, Clark claimed it was so upsetting to him that he discarded it in the trash before realizing it may have been better to keep it and have others help him discover the person who wrote it.

Rosendall, however, said Clark’s disclosure of the letter at a time when the Kameny estate was making public statements accusing him, Carter, Witeck and Francis of improperly taking items from the house could have raised suspicions that they may have been responsible for the anonymous hate letter.

“I was not under any impression that he had made an explicit accusation,” Rosendall said this week. “The whole point was he throws that out there as red meat and there is an implication that somebody else that he was talking about was to blame for it.”

The Blade requested a response from Ackerman to Rosendall’s statements about the hate letter. The Blade further asked Ackerman if anyone besides Clark saw the letter and could corroborate its existence. Ackerman emailed the following statement: “The questions you ask regarding the letter are not relevant to this firm’s representation of the Estate of Franklin E. Kameny and any comment on this topic would be inappropriate.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement
6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Richard J. Rosendall

    October 10, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    If the alleged racist letter that none of us has seen is so irrelevant, why did Ackerman and his client bring it up in the March 2012 Blade interview, other than to make Mr. Clark look like an aggrieved party and implicitly to smear the people he sued, all of whom had helped Frank Kameny in a pro bono capacity for his benefit and the preservation of his legacy? Ackerman never phoned or emailed me to ask if I had anything belonging to the estate before suing me. There was no reason the matter could not have been resolved amicably and all involved saved the trouble and expense of a lawsuit. Instead, I was questioned in probate court about a picket sign of Kameny’s that was given to me in 2006, five years before his death, as if I had taken it posthumously. I had shown nothing but compassion to Mr. Clark and certainly did not deserve such treatment. I was pleased to be vindicated in that courtroom. I only wish that the agreement over transfer of the cemetery plot would be finalized at long last so that so many people who benefited from Frank’s legacy can have an appropriate place to pay their respects, as Michael Bedwell suggested. As far as I am aware, all this would take would be a moment of grace and a signature on a document. As someone who worked with Frank for 33 and one-half years, I would welcome that development. As it is, I feel I was punished for doing the right thing in helping to preserve the legacy of my colleague and friend whose pioneering work left this country a better and more free place for so many of us. It is time to end unnecessary disputes with those who helped Frank the most in his final years, and the ball appears to be in Mr. Clark’s court.

  2. MPetrelis

    October 10, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    Our heroic icon deserves better. It is shameful that two-years after Frank’s death, his remains have not been properly buried. A request to all of the parties in this matter. PLEASE resolve your differences and honor Frank by interring his remains before 2013 is over.

  3. Rick Rosendall

    October 10, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    To Michael Petrelis: I know how easy it is to conclude that “all of the parties” need to resolve their differences. But it appears from the above article that there is only one party that needs to act in order for Frank’s remains to be buried–and that is for Tim Clark to sign the agreement transferring the cemetery plot, and then for him to make burial arrangements for the ashes, which are in his possession. My own personal involvement in the legal dispute ended in the spring of 2012 when my case was resolved in probate court under Judge John Campbell. If it had been up to those of us who were sued by the estate, Frank’s remains would have been buried a year and a half ago.

  4. Michael Bedwell

    October 15, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    To clarify an error in the article, I was not one of those who selected the Congressional Cemetery plot for Frank. The confusion apparently arises from the fact that I had offered to give one that is next to his protégé Leonard Matlovich first to Frank himself a few months before he passed, then, after his death, to those who decided on a different location in the row behind Leonard. Conflicting statements from various parties aside, what’s indisputable is that there is still no proper memorial in DC for the man on whose shoulders we all stand two years after his death. We want to believe that the young man who has claimed to be so grateful to Frank for all he did for him in his life and for making him wealthy in his death has only the best intentions. But amplifying the above, neither his permission nor Frank’s ashes are required for anyone to create a memorial to Frank anywhere. Millions more visit Lincoln’s Memorial in Washington every year than his actual gravesite in Springfield, Illinois. Frank himself participated in such a project when he carried a rainbow flag at the head of a procession into Congressional Cemetery in 1987, during the weekend of that year’s gay march on Washington, for a large ceremony to dedicate a proposed memorial there to Harvey Milk conceived by Leonard Matlovich even though Milk’s ashes had been spread at sea. Milk’s onetime partner, Scott Smith, had given Leonard a number of Milk mementoes that were placed in a wooden urn to be interred after a suitable stone memorial was created. Unfortunately, it never came to fruition due to lack of funding after Leonard’s death the next year.

    While mementoes of Frank could be interred in lieu of his ashes, nothing is required. The point is more what he brought to our lives, and the respect and gratitude we want to bring to a place representing him just as people do for Lincoln . . . and Leonard and Frank’s longtime compatriot Barbara Gittings whose memorial bench is just across the lane in Congressional Cemetery.

    We trust Mr. Clarke would not be so petty as to claim ownership of the Veteran’s Administration gravestone, and even IF the “Gay Is Good” grave marker was purchased with money donated in Frank’s memory, this non-lawyer can imagine no more viable claim to it than to the plot itself. Those who contributed that money did it in good faith trust of those to whom they gave it in Frank’s memory—not his estate. The decision is theirs, of course, but I urge those in possession of the plot deed to abandon their admirable attempts to achieve an agreement with Mr. Clarke, and ask that the “Gay Is Good” marker be reinstalled as a cenotaph so that people will have a place to come and honor Frank. Subsequently, if no agreement can be reached with Mr. Clarke about ownership of the veteran's marker and disposition of the ashes, I’m confidant many would be eager to contribute to the purchase of another marker bearing Frank’s name just as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, DNC Treasurer/philanthropist Andrew Tobias, philanthropist/activist Tim Gill and his husband Scott Miller, historian and author Dr. Lillian Faderman, Brig. General Tammy Smith, and cofounder of the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays Gil Gerald made possible Frank’s Legacy Walk beautiful memorial in Chicago whose dedication last Friday it was my honor to attend. Thank you.

  5. Michael Bedwell

    October 15, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    To clarify an error in the article, I was not one of those who selected the Congressional Cemetery plot for Frank. The confusion apparently arises from the fact that I had offered to give one that is next to his protégé Leonard Matlovich first to Frank himself a few months before he passed, then, after his death, to those who decided on a different location in the row behind Leonard. Conflicting statements from various parties aside, what’s indisputable is that there is still no proper memorial in DC for the man on whose shoulders we all stand two years after his death. We want to believe that the young man who has claimed to be so grateful to Frank for all he did for him in his life and for making him wealthy in his death has only the best intentions. But amplifying the above, neither his permission nor Frank’s ashes are required for anyone to create a memorial to Frank anywhere. Millions more visit Lincoln’s Memorial in Washington every year than his actual gravesite in Springfield, Illinois. Frank himself participated in such a project when he carried a rainbow flag at the head of a procession into Congressional Cemetery in 1987, during the weekend of that year’s gay march on Washington, for a large ceremony to dedicate a proposed memorial there to Harvey Milk conceived by Leonard Matlovich even though Milk’s ashes had been spread at sea. Milk’s onetime partner, Scott Smith, had given Leonard a number of Milk mementoes that were placed in a wooden urn to be interred after a suitable stone memorial was created. Unfortunately, it never came to fruition due to lack of funding after Leonard’s death the next year.

    While mementoes of Frank could be interred in lieu of his ashes, nothing is required. The point is more what he brought to our lives, and the respect and gratitude we want to bring to a place representing him just as people do for Lincoln . . . and Leonard and Frank’s longtime compatriot Barbara Gittings whose memorial bench is just across the lane in Congressional Cemetery.

    We trust Mr. Clarke would not be so petty as to claim ownership of the Veteran’s Administration gravestone, and even IF the “Gay Is Good” grave marker was purchased with money donated in Frank’s memory, this non-lawyer can imagine no more viable claim to it than to the plot itself. Those who contributed that money did it in good faith trust of those to whom they gave it in Frank’s memory—not his estate. The decision is theirs, of course, but I urge those in possession of the plot deed to abandon their admirable attempts to achieve an agreement with Mr. Clarke, and ask that the “Gay Is Good” marker be reinstalled as a cenotaph so that people will have a place to come and honor Frank. Subsequently, if no agreement can be reached with Mr. Clarke about ownership of the veteran’s marker and disposition of the ashes, I’m confidant many would be eager to contribute to the purchase of another marker bearing Frank’s name just as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, DNC Treasurer/philanthropist Andrew Tobias, philanthropist/activist Tim Gill and his husband Scott Miller, historian and author Dr. Lillian Faderman, Brig. General Tammy Smith, and cofounder of the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays Gil Gerald made possible Frank’s Legacy Walk beautiful memorial in Chicago whose dedication last Friday it was my honor to attend. Thank you.

  6. Rick Mangus

    October 22, 2013 at 1:38 am

    Let Frank get his rest and stop acting like a bunch of stupid queens!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

National

U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS to be held virtually Dec. 2-3

Fauci, Levine, Pelosi to speak at opening session

Published

on

Dr. Rachel Levine, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health, is among speakers at this week’s U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; and Dr. Rachel Levine, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health who became the nation’s highest-ranking transgender public official earlier this year, are among dozens of experts scheduled to participate in the 25th Annual U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS scheduled to take place virtually Dec. 2-3.

Fauci and Levine were scheduled to join Harold Phillips, director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy; and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, as speakers at the conference’s opening plenary session at noon on Thursday, Dec. 2. 

Phillips and Levine were expected to provide information about President Joe Biden’s plans for updating the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which Biden was scheduled to announce on Dec. 1 at a White House World AIDS Day event.

Members of the U.S. People Living With HIV Caucus were also expected to discuss the federal policy agenda on HIV/AIDS at the opening plenary session. 

In addition to the opening plenary and three other plenary sessions, one more on Thursday, Dec. 2, and two on Friday, Dec. 3, the conference was scheduled to include 140 workshop sessions on a wide variety of HIV/AIDS related topics.

The annual United States Conference on HIV/AIDS is organized by the D.C.-based national HIV/AIDS advocacy organization NMAC, which was formerly known as the National Minority AIDS Council before it changed its name to that of its widely known initials NMAC. 

“NMAC leads with race to urgently fight for health equity and racial justice to end the HIV epidemic in America,” the organization states on its website. “Health equity with communities of color is everyone’s challenge.”

Several of the workshop sessions cover the topic of expanding the local, state, and national efforts of using pre-exposure prophylaxis drugs known as PrEP as a means of preventing HIV infection. 

Other workshop sessions include: HIV CURE – Hot Topics in HIV Cure Research; A Town Hall on Aging and HIV; COVID, HIV, and Racism – How Providers Can Make a Difference; Expanding the Pleasure and HIV Prevention Toolkit: Kink As Harm Reduction; It’s About Time – HIV Research Just For Transgender Women; and Impact of COVID-19 on HIV Prevention Services Among U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-Funded Community Based Organizations.

The conference’s fourth and closing plenary session, Foundation Stones to Building the EHE Effort in Indian County, “will highlight the work of those addressing HIV and COVID in Indian Country, rural states and among Alaska Natives with limited infrastructure,” according to a conference agenda statement. 

“This plenary addresses these challenges and provides innovative solutions by the Indian Country – making the case to support Native HIV care by providing essential building blocks,” the agenda statement says. 

Paul Kawata, NMAC’s executive director, says in a statement in the conference’s agenda booklet that he and his NMAC team are disappointed that the 2021 conference is being held virtually for the second year in a row.

“But we felt the issue of safety was simply too critical to ignore,” Kawata said in his statement. “I’ve been very concerned about our loved ones over 50 living with HIV through the whole COVID pandemic,” he said, noting that people in that category were dealing with isolation as well as a higher risk for COVID.

“I hope this conference, even though it is virtual, will help alleviate some of that isolation,” Kawata said. “We’ve worked very hard to make this conference not just an opportunity for training and education, but a chance to connect with others, reinforce those strands in your support net, and hopefully, establish some new connections.”

More information about the U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS and instructions on registering to attend can be obtained at nmac.org.

Continue Reading

National

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

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading

National

LGBTQ elder care facilities open nationwide, but discrimination persists

Advocates say seniors face challenges despite groundbreaking advances

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular