LGBTQ older adults bill passes Illinois General Assembly

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The Illinois General Assembly last week passed SB3490, The Disrupting Disparities for LGBTQ Older Adults Bill.

The bill passed passed the House with a vote of 71 to 32. The bill passed the state Senate in February.

The bill:

  • Creates a 3-year Illinois Commission on LGBTQ Aging
  • Requires the Director on Aging to appoint an LGBTQ Older Adult Advocate to ensure the needs and experiences of LGBTQ older adults and older adults living with HIV are considered and incorporated throughout the department’s programming and policymaking
  • Requires state-funded service providers to complete LGBTQ older adult awareness and competency training

The AARP Illinois said the legislation ensures the continuity of work already done by Paula Basta, director of the Illinois Department of Aging and an out lesbian.

The bill was sponsored by State Sen. Karina Villa (D-West Chicago) and State Rep. Lakesia Collins (D-Chicago).

“LGBTQ older adults are a key part of Illinois’ rapidly growing elder population, and yet they remain largely invisible,” says Mary Anderson, director of advocacy and outreach – Northern Illinois for AARP Illinois. “This bill is a critical step to break down barriers to access and to address the disparities faced by older LGBTQ adults, especially for the 1 in 5 LGBTQ older adults of color for whom those disparities are compounded.”

“Not only does the Commission on LGBTQ Aging represent a historic recognition of LGBTQ elders, but it represents an investment in the future of the entire LGBTQ community across our state,” said August Hieber, manager of advocacy and programs at The Chicago Bar Foundation. “As a transgender Illinoisan, I am so grateful to Rep. Collins and Sen. Villa for centering the histories and experiences of the older adults in my community.”

“In stark contrast to the legislatures of many states across the country where LGBTQ+ rights are currently under assault, Illinois continues to reinforce the rights of all members of our community, whether they reside in the Chicago metropolitan area, or in the downstate, small town, rural, or exurban parts of Illinois,” said Don Bell, LGBTQ elder and advocate.

“My spouse of 32 years is 87 years old and I am 66 years old,” said Billy Rogers, co-founder of the Golden Rainbows of Illinois South (GRIS), a group formed in 2021 through the Rainbow Cafe LGBTQ Center in Carbondale. “You might say I am in the ‘fourth quarter’ and my spouse is in ‘overtime.’ We are living in this culture of disparity, having been victim to insults and discrimination, but we celebrate this moment.”

Organizations backing the bill include AARP Illinois, Equality Illinois, Pride Action Tank,  the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Center on Halsted, and SAGE. The bill now goes to Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker to be signed into law.