Reps. Ted Deutch & Patrick Murphy Unveil Bill to Protect LGBT Seniors
Today, U.S. Representative Ted Deutch (FL-21) joined his colleagues, Reps. Patrick E. Murphy (FL-18) and Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01) to introduce the Ruthie and Connie LGBT Elder Americans Act. This legislation will improve the Older Americans Act (OAA) to better serve LGBT seniors, who face higher rates of poverty, pronounced social isolation, and less access to health care due to barriers in the aging system and past discrimination. This bill is named to honor LGBT activists Ruthie Berman and Connie Kurtz and has been endorsed by the Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders (SAGE). (Please find attached a copy of the legislation).
"Our country has made great strides recently in the fight for equality, but we must not forget the severe impact a lifetime of discrimination has had on the well-being of aging LGBT individuals – leaving them with higher poverty rates, poorer health, and less access to health care," said Congressman Patrick E. Murphy. "I am humbled to introduce this legislation in honor of two of my constituents, Ruthie Berman and Connie Kurtz, who have been true champions for LGBT equality," Rep. Murphy continued. "After successfully suing the New York City Board of Education for domestic partner benefits in 1988, Ruthie and Connie have remained trailblazers in the LGBT community. As residents of Century Village – a major senior community in Palm Beach County – they have built a strong network of support for fellow LGBT seniors, which is what this bill will help foster more of nationwide.”
“I first met Ruthie and Connie while serving in the Florida State Senate, and I was immediately inspired by their commitment to each other and to equality for all LGBT Americans,” said Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-21). “It is a privilege to introduce a bill that is not only named in their honor, but designed to honor their work on behalf of marriage equality and dignity for all Americans. I look forward to working with my good friends, Congressman Patrick Murphy and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, to advance a bill that will strengthen the Older Americans Act and help protect the rights and well-being of LGBT seniors in Florida and across the country.”
“Everyone in this country should be able to age with dignity,” Congresswoman Bonamici (OR-1) said. "The Older Americans Act provides essential services—from home health care to nutrition—that help uphold this promise to America’s seniors. As Congress works to reauthorize the Act, we must include commonsense policies that improve access to services for LGBT older adults. I am honored to partner with Representatives Murphy and Deutch to help every older adult enjoy an independent, healthy, and fulfilling life.”
For the past 50 years, the OAA has provided support and services, such as Meals on Wheels and caregiver support, to make sure our nation's most vulnerable seniors are able to age with dignity, independence, and freedom from poverty. Congress is currently debating reauthorization of this important law, which expired in 2011. The Ruthie and Connie LGBT Elder Americans Act, which is the House companion of S. 1765 introduced by Senator Michael Bennet, will amend the OAA to better care for older LGBT Americans and provide equal treatment by including LGBT seniors as a vulnerable population, prioritizing grant opportunities for organizations focused on improving LGBT health and long-term care, and permanently establishing the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging to address the unique needs of this population.
To learn more about Ruthie and Connie's story, click here to view the trailer for the documentary Every Room in the House featuring their relationship and fight against discrimination.