Gov. Phil Murphy
Gov. Phil Murphy

Staff members of senior living and other long-term care providers who receive state funding will be required to honor resident rights and complete cultural competency training focused on sexual orientation and gender identity outlined in a new civil rights law signed Wednesday by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.

The LGBTQI+Senior Bill of Rights establishes specific rights and protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, undesignated/non-binary, questioning, queer and intersex older adults and individuals living with HIV in assisted living and memory care communities as well as comprehensive personal care homes, residential healthcare facilities and nursing homes.

The bill of rights prohibits long-term care facilities from discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation, gender identify, gender expression, intersex status or HIV status. Specifically, operators cannot deny admission or evict a resident, oppose a room-sharing or assignment request, fail to use a resident’s chosen name, restrict a resident’s right to associate with other residents and visitors, deny a resident the ability to dress in clothing permitted to any other resident, prohibit restroom access or deny medical care. 

Murphy, signing the bill into law on Wednesday, said that it provides “critical protections from discrimination.” The law goes into effect in 180 days.

“No one should ever feel ashamed for who they are, and everyone should be able to live with the dignity and equality that they deserve,” the governor said.

The law also requires facility administrators and staff members to undergo training on caring for LGBTQI older adults and those living with HIV, as well as on prevention discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression of intersex status and HIV status.

New Jersey Human Services Acting Commissioner Sarah Adelman said that a long-term care facility is a healthcare setting, “but it’s also someone’s home.”

“Too often we see LGBTQI+ people going back in the closet when they go into long-term care, out of legitimate fear of discrimination, loss of dignity and freedom. These protections will ensure that our LGBTQI+ elders can live free from discrimination in these settings,” New Jersey Long-Term Care Ombudsman Laurie Facciarossa Brewer added.

“With the signing of this bill, more people will be properly trained and educated about the rights and protections afforded to this community,” said Sen. Troy Singleton (D-Burlington), who sponsored the legislation.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that it now interprets the Fair Housing Act to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Feb. 25, the Equality Act passed in the U.S. House of Representatives with a bipartisan vote of 224-206. The act — federal legislation that would explicitly add sexual orientation and gender identity protections to existing civil rights laws that protect race, color, national origin and religion — had been introduced Feb. 18 by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI). In the Senate, it was introduced Feb. 23 by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) and was read for a second time on Tuesday.