New Jersey's governor, Democrat Phil Murphy, signed legislation last week that protects LGBTQ+ and HIV-positive seniors from discrimination in long-term care facilities.
Called the LGBTQI+ Senior Bill of Rights, the legislation not only bars discrimination on gender identity, sexual orientation, and HIV status, it mandates training on those subjects for long-term care staff. It goes even further, banning misgendering of trans patients, allows use of restrooms that comport with users' gender identity, and lifts restrictions on who can share sleeping quarters.
Studies conducted by the American Assocation of Retired Persons (AARP) and Services & Advocacy for LGBT Elders (SAGE) cite high levels of anxiety among LGBTQ+ people over possible discrimination at assisted-living facilities and nursing homes. The concern is easily explained — one study from SAGE and the Equal Rights Center found nearly half of same-sex couples applying for senior housing experienced some form of bias.
"Through our work, we know LGBTQ older adults are at greater risk for social isolation, health issues, and poverty, and often have concerns about living in a long-term care facility," Christian Fuscarino of Garden State Equality said in a statement.
Slightly over 50 percent of people diagnosed with HIV in 2018 were aged 50 or older; 66 percent of those individuals became HIV-positive through male-on-male contact.