(TRENTON) – Seeking to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer residents of long-term care facilities from facing discrimination based on their gender identity or sexual orientation, a bill to ensure certain protections for members of the LGBTQ community living in long-term care was signed into law Wednesday by Governor Phil Murphy.
The new law (formerly bill A-4288) is sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Nicholas Chiaravalloti and Annette Quijano. It was previously approved by the Assembly in January 69-1-5, and by the Senate in December 33-0.
“Many older adults in the LGBTQ community have experienced decades of stigma and discrimination. They should not, under any circumstances, feel marginalized in the long-term care center where they deserve to feel at home,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “We’ve worked tirelessly in New Jersey to protect the rights of LGBTQ people, but there’s more we can do to combat discrimination in long-term care facilities and ensure all LGBTQ residents may grow older with dignity.”
Under the new law, long-term care facilities are prohibited from:
denying admission to long-term care facilities, transferring or refusing to transfer a resident to another facility, or discharging/evicting a resident;
denying requests by residents to share rooms;
refusing to assign/reassign rooms to transgender or undesignated/non-binary residents where rooms are assigned by gender unless at residents’ requests;
prohibiting residents from using, or harassing residents who seek to use, a restroom available to others of the same gender identity;
repeatedly failing to use a resident’s chosen name or preferred pronouns after being clearly informed of their preferences;
denying a resident’s right to wear or be dressed in clothing, accessories, cosmetics, or to engage in preferred grooming preferences that are permitted to other residents;
restricting a resident’s right to associate with other residents/visitors, including consensual sexual relations;
denying/restricting medical or nonmedical care appropriate to a resident’s organs and bodily needs, or providing care that unduly demeans the resident’s dignity or causes available discomfort from the perspective of a similarly-situated and reasonable person; or
refusing/willfully failing to provide service, care, or reasonable accommodation to residents or applicants for services or care.
In a report by the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, nearly nine in 10 respondents said that they thought long-term care staff would discriminate against someone who came out in a facility; eight in 10 responded that they would expect mistreatment or bullying from nursing home residents. Some transgender residents surveyed reported that they experienced isolation and staff refused to recognize their gender identities.
“Long-term care facilities are supposed to be a haven for the most vulnerable among us. No one should worry that they will experience differential treatment, abuse or neglect because of their gender identity or sexual orientation if they enter long-term care,” said Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). “This new law is about removing barriers to quality care for all LGBTQ residents in our long-term care system.”
“When someone is considering long-term care, the last thing we want is for them to be fearful they will face harassment because they identify as LGBTQ. This fear may even deter some from going into long-term care in the first place,” said Quijano (D-Union). “Our goal is to ensure all LGBTQ residents feel safe and respected in long-term care facilities, and all receive the highest standard of care.”