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A Montgomery County Councilmember has introduced an LGBTQ Bill of Rights to strengthen and expand legal protections for LGBTQ residents in the county.
The bill codifies additional protections for people based on gender expression and HIV status into county law, and explicitly bans discrimination against LGBTQ elders in health care facilities, nursing homes, and personal care facilities.
Once passed, the bill, which has been co-sponsored by all members of the Montgomery County Council, will be the first of its type enacted in Maryland and the D.C. region.
“During Pride Month, I’d spoken to members of the community who had expressed concerns about health care rights and transgender rights. And I began thinking about ways to further support the LGBTQ+ community,” Glass told Metro Weekly in an interview.
“Even though the Supreme Court just gave additional protections to the community, there are still so many more things that we can do to make sure that people feel safe and protected here at home.”
Glass noted that part of making people feel safe and secure includes ensuring they have proper access to comprehensive, affirming health care — particularly LGBTQ seniors, who are often living in assisted living facilities or places where they are reliant on other individuals who may not necessarily be LGBTQ-friendly.
This is increasingly important because Montgomery County’s senior population is projected to grow in the next decade, constituting more than 1 in 5 county residents by 2040.
“In my conversations, I saw that there was a need to protect seniors who were in health care facilities and adult living situations because they do not have adequate protections, particularly for transgender seniors and individuals who are HIV-positive,” Glass said.
“More than half of Americans who are HIV-positive are over the age of 50. And so HIV status is quickly becoming a senior issue, and we need to deal with it as such.
“I also want to make sure that our transgender seniors are not mistreated by the use of pronouns. Everyone should be spoken with in a dignified manner, and that respect should be given by the use of proper pronouns.”
“Access to safe long-term care is of dire concern for the LGBTQ community,” Nancy Carr, the associate state director for communications at AARP Maryland, which is backing Glass’s bill, said in a statement.
“A 2018 AARP study found that many LGBTQ seniors are vulnerable and isolated because they are less likely to have adult children to look out for them. They are also more likely to have lost a significant part of their social network during the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“Discrimination at the hands of providers threatens the very health, financial security, and personal fulfillment of too many 50-plus LGBTQ adults,” Carr added.
“We are glad to see Montgomery County take the lead on this issue, and we hope it propels further action at the state level.
Under the expanded civil rights law, anyone who believes they have been targeted for discrimination can appeal to the county’s Office of Human Rights, who could pursue action on the victim’s behalf.
The bill is modeled after an LGBTQ Senior Bill of Rights that was introduced in Annapolis by Del. Gabriel Acevero (D-Montgomery Co.) during this year’s abbreviated General Assembly session, which was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While the LGBTQ Senior Bill of Rights did not pass in Annapolis because of the truncated schedule, I’m optimistic that the passage of this bill here in Montgomery County will provide additional support so that it goes statewide next year,” Glass added.
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