Rainbow LGBTQI flag waving in the wind
(Credit: Alexander Spatari / Getty Images)

New York has become the latest state to adopt legislation establishing a bill of rights for LGBTQ+ residents in other long-term care facilities.

S 1783A / A 372 prohibits assisted living communities and other long-term care facilities and their staffs from discriminating against residents on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or HIV status. 

“The New York State LGBTQ+ and HIV Long-Term Care Bill of Rights will help combat the stigma that unjustly impacts New Yorkers living with HIV and empower LGBTQ+ elders to be open about their identities without fear of discrimination in long-term care settings,” Darcy Connors, executive director of SAGEServes, the direct services division of elder advocacy organization SAGE, said in a statement. “LGBTQ+ elders and those living with HIV have waited far too long for these safeguards that enable them to age with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

The law builds on existing discrimination protections in New York’s Human Rights Law by prohibiting communities and their staffs from making discriminatory decisions based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or HIV status, including denying admission, transferring or denying a transfer within or to another facility, and discharging or evicting a resident.

“New York’s seniors should be able to live their lives with the dignity and respect they deserve, free from discrimination of every kind,” Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) said in a statement. “LGBTQIA+ and HIV-positive seniors are among our most vulnerable populations, and today we are taking steps to ensure that all New Yorkers — regardless of who they are, who they love or their HIV status — find safety and support in places where they need it the most.”

Building on momentum

San Francisco passed the first LGBTQ Bill of Rights ordinance in 2015, followed by California in 2017. Washington, DC, passed its law in 2020, as did Montgomery County, MD. New Jersey adopted a comprehensive LGBTQI and HIV+ Bill of Rights for long-term care residents in 2021, as well as legislation

Federal protections for LGBTQ+ long-term care residents were included in a “first-of-its-kind” executive order signed in June 2022 by President Biden. The order directed the US Department of Health And Human Services to develop and publish a Bill of Rights for LGBTQI+ Older Adults, as well as issue guidance on “nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics, and other rights of LGBTQI+ older adults in long-term care settings.”

Congress also took up the Equality Act, which would provide federal civil rights protections for LGBTQI+ Americans. The House of Representatives passed the legislation in a bipartisan vote in February 2021. The bill, if adopted as written, would explicitly add sexual orientation and gender identity protections to existing civil rights laws that protect individuals against discrimination based on race, color, national origin and religion. 

Last year, national caregiver advocacy group PHI announced the launch of the Direct Care Worker Equity Institute to address issues of racism and gender injustice in long-term care. And in January, the Business Coalition for the Equality Act announced that more than 500 major corporations had joined with the Human Rights Campaign in calling for the Senate to pass the Equality Act.