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LGBT Seniors To Have More Protections In California Nursing Homes

Ted Eytan / Flickr

Ted Eytan / Flickr

This is part of our series on new California laws taking effect in 2018.

Lesbian and gay seniors in long-term care facilities will have more protections in the new year.

A law that kicks in on Jan. 1, 2018 was written in response to numerous reports of LGBT discrimination at nursing homes.

State Senator Scott Wiener said he wrote the bill because LGBT seniors have unique challenges that weren't addressed under current nursing home laws. All seniors in long-term care facilities have protections written into state law, but nursing home interactions can be more complicated for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

Mary Thorndal is head of the Gay and Lesbian Association of Retiring Persons. She said it's sad that people have to face this kind of discrimination at the end of life.

"This is the scary part is, you know, people don't expect this, especially in California we've had so much freedom,” Thorndal said. “It's scary to think that when people are vulnerable, they might have to go through something."

Thorndal said she's received numerous complaints from seniors regarding long-term care.

"We've also received calls from family members that their uncle or cousin or whatever are in a facility and they're experiencing discrimination. So, I think this is a problem," she said.

Wiener said he too was getting reports of mistreatment. He said LGBT seniors may feel the need to go back in the closet, and are less likely to have adult children who can advocate for them, but this new law should help address some of these issues.

"We have a number of advocacy organizations that are very excited about the bill that helped us get it passed and they are definitely putting the word out that people living in long-term care facilities have these protections and should be aware of them," Wiener said.

The bill prohibits the facilities from discriminating based on a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or HIV status.

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