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Bonamici, Deutch, Crist Introduce Bill to Strengthen Safeguards for LGBT Older Adults

March 14, 2019
Press Release


WASHINGTON, DC [03/14/19] – Today Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Ted Deutch (D-FL), and Charlie Crist (D-FL) introduced legislation to provide needed support for LGBT older adults and increase their access to health care and culturally competent services.


The Ruthie and Connie LGBT Elder Americans Act updates the Older Americans Act to better serve LGBT elders, who face disproportionate barriers to accessing support programs and are at a higher risk of experiencing isolation and poverty. The bill would improve services by establishing a National Resource Center on LGBT Aging and determining the needs of LGBT older adults through data collection and research.    


The legislation is named after Ruthie Berman and Connie Kurtz, long-time advocates for LGBT equality. Connie fought for the rights of LGBT older adults until her death in 2018. Ruthie, her widow, continues to serve as a champion for the cause.


“No one should have to worry about whether they will receive needed elder care support and services because of their identity or who they love,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. “Unfortunately, too many seniors in the LGBT community face isolation and significant barriers to accessing programs and resources. I’m honored to continue Connie’s work to fight for the rights of LGBT seniors by introducing the Ruthie and Connie LGBT Elder Americans Act.”


“I’m deeply honored to reintroduce this bill in Connie’s memory and in honor of her and her wife Ruthie’s lifelong activism in the LGBT community,” said Congressman Ted Deutch. “LGBT seniors face unique challenges and are at greater risk of facing bigotry and discrimination in their twilight years. No one should have to hide who they are or go back into the closet as they age to access needed care or services. With this legislation, Congress can ensure LGBT seniors have the resources, support, and care to address their unique needs and retire in dignity.”


“The Older Americans Act provides critical support and services for millions of Americans, yet fails to address the specific needs of our LGBT seniors,” said Congressman Charlie Crist. “LGBT seniors disproportionally face isolation, poverty, and poor health outcomes as they age. Paying homage to Floridians Ruthie Berman and the late, great Connie Kurtz – trailblazers in moving equality forward – this legislation takes into account the needs of LGBT seniors, so they can live out their golden years with greater security and peace of mind.”


The legislation is endorsed by SAGE USA, National Center for Transgender Equality, and National LGBTQ Task Force.


“While we’ve made progress in our fight for LGBT equality, we still have work to do,” said 84-year-old Ruthie Berman, a lesbian activist and namesake of the bill. “My beloved Connie Kurtz passed away on May 27. I know Connie’s spirit is here, and that she would be proud to see the incredible advances that the LGBT community is achieving. However, LGBT people, especially older people, across the country still face challenges in accessing aging services and supports. That’s why this legislation is so important, and why it must be passed.”


“Yesterday was a historic day for our LGBT elder pioneers as dozens of LGBT elders and those living with HIV descended on Washington, D.C., to advocate for their rights,” said Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE USA. “Today we are thrilled to see the introduction of the Ruthie & Connie LGBT Elder Americans Act and commend Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, Ted Deutch, and Charlie Crist, for taking a stand to ensure that older LGBT people and those living with HIV from across the country have access to aging services and supports.” 


You can read the text of the Ruthie and Connie LGBT Elder Americans Act here and a summary of the legislation here.