Out legislators unveil plan to stop “heartbreaking” abuse of LGBTQ+ elders nationwide

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Angie Craig

Rep. Angie Craig Photo: Angie Craig

Legislation to create a new task force to combat LGBTQ+ elder abuse has been introduced by out Rep. Angie Craig of (D-MN) and fellow Equality Caucus member Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ).

Gottheimer announced the bill, dubbed the “Elder Pride Protection Act,” at an annual roundtable of North Jersey LGBTQ+ community organizations and advocates.

“We know that elderly members of the LGBTQ+ community face abuse across our nation, but their voices aren’t being heard,” Gottheimer said Friday. “The reality is that organizations and government agencies aren’t tracking these heartbreaking attacks.”

The bill would require the attorney general to establish a Department of Justice (DOJ) task force composed of members of the DOJ’s Elder Justice Initiative and the Office of Civil Rights, according to reporting from The Hill.

The interagency group would be tasked with developing a national approach to combating increased incidents of LGBTQ+ elder abuse, and determining and sharing best practices for local and state law enforcement.

Important to the group’s mission will be tracking and reporting when and how the abuse takes place. The group will make regular reports to Congress.

The new legislation “is a critical step in ensuring that we can coordinate our response to this runaway abuse at the federal level,” Gottheimer said. “No one should ever be mistreated on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, especially our vulnerable elderly populations.”

Data shared at the roundtable reveals many LGTBQ+ elders have reported challenges like a diminishing support system and loneliness. Abuse, however, often goes unreported.

An estimated 68% of elders in the community have experienced verbal harassment and 43 percent have been threatened with violence, according to a study from The National Center on Elder Abuse.

Another survey revealed 65% of LGBTQ+ elders aged 60 or older reported dealing with victimization due to their sexual orientation. Also, 29% revealed they were physically attacked.

In May, out Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Sharice Davids (D-KS), and ally Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), who chairs the caucus’s LGBTQI+ Aging Issues Task Force, announced proposed updates to the Older Americans Act intended to improve services for older LGBTQ+ adults in rural areas, particularly for those living with HIV.

“Congress has a responsibility to ensure LGBTQI+ older adults and older people living with HIV in rural communities have the support they need to age with dignity,” said Rep. Pocan, the Equality Caucus chair. 

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