Friday, May 26, 2017

Aging as LGBT Brings Unique Challenges

Andrea Sears, Public News Service

LGBT Americans have special needs as they reach retirement age. (CityofStPete/Flickr)
LGBT Americans have special needs as they reach retirement age. (CityofStPete/Flickr)
HARRISBURG, Pa. – With LGBT Pride celebrations just around the corner, a new report shows that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults are facing unique challenges as they grow older.

From the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to the recognition of same-sex marriage, recent years have brought tremendous advances in LGBT rights.

But, according to report author Heron Greensmith, senior policy analyst at the Movement Advancement Project, past discrimination still is taking a toll on the 2.7 million LGBT Americans over age 50.

"A lifetime of discrimination and a lifetime of a lack of legal and social recognition of LGBT relationships creates economic insecurity, social isolation, and leads to minority stress and poorer health," Greensmith explains.

The report recommends steps to address these disparities including spousal benefits for those whose partners died before marriage was allowed, and reinstatement of benefits to veterans discharged because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Some disparities persist, especially in states that have not passed laws banning LGBT discrimination. Greensmith points to a recent test in which older same-sex couples applied for housing.

"In 10 percent of the tests, the same-sex couples were quoted rental prices at least $100 more than the different-sex couples, and in fact, half of the couples experienced overt discrimination," Greensmith says.

Greensmith notes that some of the progress of recent years now is being threatened by discriminatory policies on the national and state levels.

For example, they note that questions about sexual orientation and gender identity have been removed from a draft of a national survey used to determine what services older Americans need.

"When a population can point to data showing it needs specific, targeted services and programs, they're more likely to receive funding to fund those programs and services," Greensmith adds.

Greensmith also adds that this data will be crucial as more LGBT adults reach retirement age.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Bill Would Close Exemptions in PA Smoke-Free Law

Andrea Sears, Public News Service

The 2008 Clean Indoor Air Act allows smoking in some bars and restaurants, private clubs and casinos. (DucDigital/Flickr)
The 2008 Clean Indoor Air Act allows smoking in some bars and restaurants, private clubs and casinos. (DucDigital/Flickr)
HARRISBURG, Pa. – A bill has been introduced to eliminate exemptions in Pennsylvania's Clean Indoor Air Law.

Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death nationwide, and every year secondhand smoke kills about 42,000 non-smokers nationally. Pennsylvania spends more than $6.3 billion annually on smoking-related healthcare costs.

While the 2008 law created smoke-free environments to protect some workers and others from the dangers of secondhand smoke, according to Brad Cary, the coalition manager for the Breathe Free Pennsylvania Coalition, the law also allowed many exceptions to the indoor smoking ban.

"In 2008, I guess you could say, they picked winners and losers in the bill so the remaining exemptions, the big ones, are the remaining bars and restaurants that allow smoking, private clubs and casinos," he explains.

House Bill 1309 would end many of the existing exemptions, extend the law to include e-cigarettes and allow local governments to pass even stronger ordinances.

Cary says the existing law essentially creates two classes of hospitality workers, those who are forced to work in smoke-filled environments and those who are not.

"Why should others be exposed to that when we could enact a law that would strengthen what we currently have on record and cover everybody - a full, comprehensive law?" he asks.

Members of the Breathe Free Pennsylvania Coalition include the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network, and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.