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AARP-Backed LGBTQ+ Bill of Rights Takes Effect for Oregon Nursing Homes

Lesbian couple embracing on couch in their living room
MoMo Productions/Getty Images

En español | Residents in Oregon nursing homes and assisted living facilities who identify as LGBTQ+ have new protections starting this year, thanks to legislation supported by AARP.

The state’s first long-term care bill of rights for LGBTQ+ residents took effect Jan. 1 after being signed into law by Gov. Tina Kotek last July.

The legislation, which AARP Oregon helped pass, makes it illegal for facilities to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer older adults, or those who are HIV positive.

Under the law, long-term care facilities are prohibited from denying admission or making room assignments, transfers or other decisions based on a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status. Staff also must undergo training to understand the needs of LGBTQ+ older adults.

New York State passed a similar law last year.

“Oregon has the highest LBGTQ+ population proportion of any state,” Andrea Meyer, AARP Oregon’s advocacy director, said when testifying in favor of the bill last year. “Despite Oregon’s commitment to an inclusive state, many LGBTQ+ older Oregonians continue to face widespread disparities negatively impacting their health, financial resilience and overall quality of life.”

Meyer pointed to a 2021 state survey showing nearly 60 percent of older LGBTQ+ residents in Oregon reported experiencing discrimination within the last year. A quarter of those said it happened in “residential settings and health care.”

Older adults who identify as LGBTQ+ face unique challenges as they age. For example, they are twice as likely as older heterosexuals to be single and live alone, and four times less likely to have children. That means they often must rely on someone outside of their family to care for them.

Many worry about mistreatment — or being forced to hide their sexual identity — if they need to move to a nursing home or an assisted living facility, according to an AARP survey of LGBTQ+ adults 45 and older.

The law provides “critical protections that allow residents of long-term care facilities to age with choice and dignity, regardless of their gender identity or expression, sexual orientation or HIV status,” said AARP Oregon State Director Bandana Shrestha.

Read more about LGBTQ+ older adults and keep up with our advocacy work in Oregon.

Natalie Missakian covers federal and state policy and writes AARP’s Fighting for You Every Day blog. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Haven Register and daily newspapers in Ohio. Her work has also appeared in the AARP Bulletin, the Hartford Business Journal and other publications.

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