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New Issue Brief: Why LGBT Older People Need the Equality Act


Christina Da Costa, SAGE | 212-741-2257 

Rebecca Farmer, Movement Advancement Project | 303-578-4600 ext 122 

(July 14, 2021)—A new issue brief released today, Why LGBT Older People Need the Equality Act Now, details how LGBT older people would benefit from passage of the Equality Act, which would update federal civil rights law to explicitly protect people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in key areas of life.

Protections for LGBT older people vary across the United States as more than half of states lack laws explicitly prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation. Without the Equality Act, LGBTQ older people remain at risk from being evicted from their homes or residential communities, kicked out of a business that is open to the public, denied health care or turned away from government services simply because of who they are.

“We spent last month celebrating our community’s history for Pride – now we must honor that by addressing how long LGBT elders have been facing discrimination without nationwide legal protections,” said SAGE CEO Michael Adams. “There are still 29 states across the country without explicit laws protecting LGBT elders from discrimination, and this resource makes it crystal clear why that has to change, and why the Senate must pass the Equality Act now.”

"After facing a lifetime of discrimination, LGBT older people should not have to worry whether they will be treated unfairly while going to the doctor or living in a long-term care facility,” said Ineke Mushovic, MAP Executive Director. “For LGBT older people—as well as women, people of color, immigrants, and people of minority faiths—passing the Equality Act is vital: no one should have to live in fear of discrimination simply because of who they are or who they love.”  

The Equality Act would update existing civil rights law by filling critical gaps in nondiscrimination protections in public places; protecting against sex discrimination in public accommodations and federally funded programs; and adding explicit nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.  

Expanding where discrimination against LGBT people, people of color, immigrants, people of faith and others is prohibited to more of the places people visit daily is critical. This is especially true for the more than 2.7 million LGBT people who are 50 years or older in the United States:

  1. LGBT older people experience discrimination across many areas of life, including at work, at the doctor’s office, within residential communities and when seeking housing, and when accessing social supports like senior centers

  2. Nearly half of LGBT people who had entered long-term care or had a loved one in long-term care experienced mistreatment in a care facility  

  3. LGBT older people may be less likely to go to the doctor or seek assistance because they fear discrimination or have experienced discrimination 
Through the Equality Act, Congress has the opportunity to pass comprehensive nondiscrimination protections that will ensure LGBT older people can age with health, dignity, and respect.

Read the issue brief here.


SAGE is the world’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults. Founded in 1978 and headquartered in New York City, SAGE is a national organization that advocates for public policy changes that address the needs of LGBT older people. SAGE also offers supportive services and consumer resources to LGBT older adults and their caregivers, provides education and technical assistance for aging providers and LGBT organizations through its National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, and cultural competence training through SAGECare. With staff located across the country, SAGE coordinates a growing network of affiliates across the country.  

MAP's mission is to provide independent and rigorous research, insight and communications that help speed equality and opportunity for all. MAP works to ensure that all people have a fair chance to pursue health and happiness, earn a living, take care of the ones they love, be safe in their communities, and participate in civic life. 

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Sexual Orientation Policy Tally

The term “sexual orientation” is loosely defined as a person’s pattern of romantic or sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or more than one sex or gender. Laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation primarily protect or harm lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. That said, transgender people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual can be affected by laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation.

Gender Identity Policy Tally

“Gender identity” is a person’s deeply-felt inner sense of being male, female, or something else or in-between. “Gender expression” refers to a person’s characteristics and behaviors such as appearance, dress, mannerisms and speech patterns that can be described as masculine, feminine, or something else. Gender identity and expression are independent of sexual orientation, and transgender people may identify as heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual. Laws that explicitly mention “gender identity” or “gender identity and expression” primarily protect or harm transgender people. These laws also can apply to people who are not transgender, but whose sense of gender or manner of dress does not adhere to gender stereotypes.

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