AARP AARP States Illinois

Groundbreaking New Legislation Will Break Down Barriers for LGBTQ Older Adults, People Living with HIV in Illinois

 

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 31st, 2022
CONTACT: Monika Wnuk, Associate State Director of Communications Phone: 312-458-3611 mwnuk@aarp.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Groundbreaking New Legislation Will Break Down Barriers for LGBTQ Older Adults, People Living with HIV in Illinois

AARP Illinois commends lawmakers for passing measure inspired by report organization commissioned with SAGE last year

On behalf of 1.7 million members across the state and all adults 50-plus, AARP Illinois commends the bipartisan passage of SB3490, “The Disrupting Disparities for LGBTQ Older Adults Bill.” LGBTQ people and people living with HIV have long faced unique challenges as they age because of a lack of affirming resources and services, and stigmatization, and this bill is an important step in ensuring that their voices are represented in state programming and policymaking.

AARP Illinois applauds the work of bill sponsors, Senator Karina Villa and Representative Lakesia Collins, who championed the passage of this bill.

The passage of SB3490 will:

  • Create a 3-year Illinois Commission on LGBTQ Aging;
  • Require 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; and
  • Require state-funded service providers to complete LGBTQ older adult awareness and competency training.

The legislation will ensure continuity of the groundbreaking work of the Illinois Department on Aging under the leadership of Director Paula Basta, in support of LGBTQ older adults and older adults living with HIV.

“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 Director Basta. “I’d like to thank AARP Illinois, Pride Action Tank, Equality Illinois, stakeholders, and our legislators for affirming the administration’s continued commitment to supporting LGBTQ elders in our communities.”

This legislation solidifies years of work by advocacy organizations who supported this bill, including AARP Illinois, Equality Illinois, Pride Action Tank,  the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Center on Halsted, and SAGE.

“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.”

“More than half of people living with HIV in the United States are over the age of 50 and face innumerable challenges as they progress in their later years including stigma, isolation, and various comorbidities,” said Timothy Jackson, Director of Government Relations for AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC). “AFC and Pride Action Tank are proud to support SB3490, critical legislation that will address some of these challenges faced by LGBTQ older adults and older adults living with HIV head on.”

"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 this critical population, 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 the leadership of Sen. Villa, Rep. Collins, and the Illinois Department on Aging for shepherding this bill to the Governor's desk.  And we are grateful to the broad coalition of partners from across the state who helped build the case for this important law."

“SAGE applauds the hardworking advocates on the ground in Illinois and our champions in the legislature, particularly Sen. Villa and Rep. Collins. Thanks to their leadership, Illinois continues to be at the forefront of making sure that LGBTQ+ older people and older people living with HIV receive the culturally competent aging services and supports our community deserves,” said Lynn Faria, Executive Vice President at SAGE. “LGBTQ+ elders will continue to have a voice both alongside and within the Illinois Department on Aging.  We look forward to Governor Pritzker signing this bill into law.”

LGBTQ advocates across the state expressed enthusiastic support for the passage of the bill:

“The passage of SB3490 of represents a pivotal moment for LGBTQ older adults across Illinois. 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 & Programs at The Chicago Bar Foundation. “As a transgender Illinoisan, I am so grateful to Representative Collins and Senator Villa for centering the histories and experiences of the older adults in my community.”

“As an LGBTQ+ elder, and native-born Illinoisan, I am proud of the long history that the Prairie State has in progressive legislation that has made this state one of the minority of U.S states where  LGBTQ+ citizens enjoy full civil rights,” said Don Bell,  LGBTQ+ Elder and Advocate. “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. The Great State of Illinois is a great place to call home!”

"I salute everyone who had a role in getting the LGBTQ 50 + 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 celebrate this moment.  GRIS is now working to provide programs and resources for the aging 50+ LGBTQ seniors throughout Southern Illinois.  As co-founder of GRIS, I realize the work is far from over."

The solutions in SB3490 are based on findings from a ground-breaking report from AARP Illinois and SAGE, Disrupting Disparities: Challenges and Solutions for 50+ LGBTQ Illinoisans, as well as the work of advocacy organizations and direct service providers that serve LGBTQ older adults and older adults living with HIV in Illinois.

As a critical final step, AARP Illinois encourages Governor Pritzker to sign this meaningful bill into law.

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