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LGBT Elders Could Be Hurt By Religious Exemption Laws

Published: Monday, January 15, 2018 - 8:32am
Updated: Monday, February 22, 2021 - 12:13pm

There are more than 2 million LGBT elders in the United States.

Last month, a report titled “Dignity Denied: Religious Exemptions and LGBT Elder Services” found that increasing religious freedom laws could hurt LGBT elders. 

The issue could come down to a piece of cake.

In 2012, a baker in Colorado refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because it violated his religious beliefs. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court last month.

"That case - it sounds like it’s about a cake, but in reality, particular for LGBT older adults, this is about much more important things than cake," said Aaron Tax. He is with SAGE, an LGBT advocacy group.

Tax said LGBT elders are more likely to age alone and are more reliant on programs, such as meal delivery services or long term care facilities. They also provide a large share of older-adult-specific services.

But according to the report, a high percentage of those organizations are religiously affiliated.

Sandy Davenport is with the Pima Council on Aging.

"If the person is rejected or made to feel unwelcome in a setting that has to do with healthcare, whether it’s a medical setting or a care facility such as assisted living or nursing home, if the care is denied that could definitely impact the person’s health," Davenport said.

In its annual state equality index rating, the Human Rights Campaign, a national advocacy group, found Arizona lacks adequate laws to protect this vulnerable population.