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New Jersey Employment and Civil Rights Attorney Discusses “Same-Sex Discrimination in Senior Housing”

On Behalf of | Apr 21, 2014 | Civil Rights |

“Or . . . Keep the Golden Years Golden for Same Sex Couples.”

I’ve made no secret in other blogs about the fact that I’m appalled, as a straight person, at the hypocrisy and bigotry of the straight world, when it comes to LGBT rights. The small part of the straight world that forms the vociferous and nasty “extreme,” the people that have nothing but horrible things to say about sexual minorities, I’ve always been appalled by. But in a way, I’m more appalled by the silent “reasonable” majority of straight people that don’t speak up when LGBT people are targeted for continuing discrimination in an era when no discrimination is “okay” anymore.

So it makes sense that I’d keep turning my attention to different facets of the way that LGBT people are screwed over, every day. It seems like every time we plug one hole in the dike, another one opens up. Today, we’re going to talk about senior housing and same sex couples.

A study called “Opening Doors: An Investigation of Barriers to Senior Housing for Same-Sex Couples,” determined that in forty percent of tested cases, an LGBT person or couple was treated less favorably than a heterosexual peer when searching for senior living accommodations in New Jersey.

Why the heck should that be? 

The study was limited to discrimination against “older” lesbian, gay and bisexual couples as identified by being in a “same-sex relationship.”

As the baby boomers are aging and they start to need senior housing, they look for it, just like any older straight couple does. Some of them might need only to live in the types of communities where you have to be over 55 to buy the home, some might need retirement communities of a particular kind, or even assisted living facilities or other types of senior care. Same sex couples, however, are being turned down outright or being snidely or passive-aggressively turned down for nonsensical reasons, in numbers that simply should not be.

Because we’ve only recently begun to approach the final resolution of the equal marriage issue, by finally, perhaps, realizing that only the word “marriage” works to describe a marriage, we’re still a bit behind in appreciating how the “fixes” which were not marriage – Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships – have affected the public’s perception about same-sex couples. Same-sex couples who entered into domestic partnerships or civil unions are still not treated like married couples, because in the eyes of others, they aren’t married. Same-sex couples are still experiencing a deficit in the benefits, protections and services they as seniors have a right to expect when compared with opposite sex relationships. It’s not an even playing field. These couples are suffering.

As a civil rights attorney, I know this is actionable under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination, and we represent those couples, but this is just an appeal to anyone reading this, to think about how unfair this is.

Would we be ok with turning away senior mixed race couples? That day’s done, right? Well, time to take another step toward equality, common sense and fairness. Same sex couples deserve as many happy, peaceful golden years as any others.