Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker (Photo by Lt. Col. Bradford Leighton)

Assisted living communities are prohibited from discriminating against residents on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and other factors under a bill signed into law by Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker.

SB 1319, signed Aug. 9, amends the Assisted Living and Shared Housing Act to prohibit discrimination based on the protected categories in the Illinois Human Rights Act, including race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, sex, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity. It applies to discrimination by “any owner, licensee, administrator, employee or agent of an assisted living establishment.”

“LGBTQ older adults face many challenges as they age, including fears about neglect, abuse and harassment because of their identities,” said Brian C. Johnson, CEO of Equity Illinois, a civil rights organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning people. “Sometimes, LGBTQ older adults are forced by circumstances to go back into the closet as they age because of the absence of inclusive programming by service providers and a lack of affirming care in long-term care facilities. As they age, we must ensure laws and programming support and affirm them.”

With the signing of the bill into law, Illinois also becomes the first state to designate older adults living with HIV as populations of “greatest social need” and the third state, after California and Massachusetts, to identify LGBTQ older adults as populations of “greatest social need” for inclusion in aging programming, according to Equality Illinois.

“During our OUTAging summit in 2017, LGBTQ+ older adults reminded us over and over again about feeling invisible in senior care settings,” said Kim L. Hunt, executive director of the Pride Action Tank, a project of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. “Passage of SB 1319 helps older adults know they can continue to live full, authentic lives no matter where they reside or receive care.”