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Illinois governor signs legislation aimed at protecting LGBTQ seniors

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Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker (D) on Monday signed SB3490, an amendment to the Illinois Act on Aging designating specific protections and services for older LGBTQ adults.

The signing took place on National Honor Your LGBTQ Elders Day. The amended act creates the Illinois Commission on LGBTQ Aging to investigate and advise on improving services and needs of older LGBTQ adults.

“These elder adults are trailblazers in the fight for LGBTQ rights, growing up in an a more hostile time where basic rights were regularly denied based on gender and sexuality,” said Pritzker. “This amendment to the Illinois Act on Aging honors that struggle by ensuring all people can age in dignity with equal access to essential care and social supports.” 

The Illinois Commission on LGBTQ Aging will study issues relevant to LGBTQ elders including, but not limited to, housing, health, caregiver support, psychosocial needs, assisted living, and HIV/AIDS specific care. This includes analyzing the impact of legislation on these issues, recommending how to increase awareness for providers and for older LGBTQ adults, and making benefits more accessible. The council, in conjunction with the broader Illinois Council on Aging, will ensure equal treatment and care for older adults regardless of gender identity or sexuality.

According to research by the LGBTQ Aging Center, LGBTQ elders are more susceptible to isolation, neglect, and abuse than their straight counterparts as they age. LGBTQ Elder’s Day, first celebrated in 2015, is intended to recognize and uplift trailblazers in the LGBTQ rights movement while also drawing awareness to the vulnerabilities of LGBTQ seniors.

The Illinois Commission on LGBTQ Aging will study issues relevant to LGBTQ elders including, but not limited to, housing, health, caregiver support, psychosocial needs, assisted living, and HIV/AIDS specific care. This includes analyzing the impact of legislation on these issues, recommending how to increase awareness for providers and for older LGBTQ adults, and making benefits more accessible. The council, in conjunction with the broader Illinois Council on Aging, will ensure equal treatment and care for older adults regardless of gender identity or sexuality.

According to research by the LGBTQ Aging Center, LGBTQ elders are more susceptible to isolation, neglect, and abuse than their straight counterparts as they age. LGBTQ Elder’s Day, first celebrated in 2015, is intended to recognize and uplift trailblazers in the LGBTQ rights movement while also drawing awareness to the vulnerabilities of LGBTQ seniors.

“LGBTQ older adults face unique challenges, and we want Illinois to lead in valuing their identities, expanding access to inclusive services, and meeting the critical needs of this population,” said Paula Basta, Director of the Illinois Department on Aging. “This new law affirms the administration’s continued commitment to supporting LGBTQ elders in our communities.”

“Older adults who identify as  LGBTQ  and older adults living with HIV face unique challenges—this is a group of people who have faced discrimination, stigmatization and barriers to care their whole lives,” said State Sen. Karina Villa (D-West Chicago). “By providing a designated advocate, this legislation simply seeks to increase equity in the care given to older adults across the board.”

“On behalf of our 1.7 million members, AARP Illinois commends the Governor for signing this important bill into law,” said Philippe Largent, state director. “SB3490 is a critical step to breaking down barriers to access and addressing the disparities faced by older LGBTQ adults – a key part of the state’s rapidly growing elderly population who will now have a louder voice on issues impacting them.”

“We must tackle the disparities LGBTQ+ older adults and older adults living with HIV face. By directing resources, training, and attention to meeting the needs of these critical populations, SB 3490 helps make sure Illinois is a more affirming and equitable state for LGBTQ+ older adults and older adults living with HIV,” said Mike Ziri, Equality Illinois Director of Public Policy. “We applaud Governor Pritzker, Senator Villa, Representative Collins, and the Illinois Department on Aging for advancing this important initiative. And we are grateful to the broad coalition of partners from across the state who helped build the case for this important law.”

“I salute Gov. Pritzker, Sen. Villa, Rep. Collins, our partner organizations, and everyone who had a role in getting the LGBTQ+ Older Adults Bill passed,” 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. “My spouse of 32 years is 87 years old and I am 66 years old. 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 are celebrating this moment today.”

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