On March 3, 2021, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law S2545 which establishes protections for LGBTQI+ seniors and those living with HIV in long-term care facilities. This new civil rights legislation will ensure that New Jersey seniors who identify as LGBTQI+ and/or seniors who live with HIV will be afforded legal protections, as well as certain rights, regardless of how they identify or their HIV status. Specifically, the LGBTQI+ Senior Bill of Rights prevents long-term care facilities from:
- Opposing a request by a resident to share a room with a person of their choice;
- Denying admission to, transferring, discharging or evicting a resident based on how the resident identifies or their HIV status;
- Assigning or reassigning a room based on gender;
- Forbidding a resident from using a restroom based on gender;
- Restricting a resident’s right to engage with other residents or visitors (right of association);
- Repeatedly and/or consistently failing to use a resident’s chosen gender pronouns or desired name despite being informed of the desire to be identified as such; (emphasis added)
- Denying a resident from wearing clothing or accessories of their choice;
- Denying or restricting or providing unequal medical treatment (or non-medical care and treatment); and
- Declining to provide any service, care, or reasonable accommodation. (Emphasis Added)
If your LGBTQI+ loved one requests to share a room with someone of the same gender who also identifies as such, or a loved one asks to be addressed as “she” but nursing home administrators and employees repeatedly use the pronoun “he,” or a loved one is being unduly prevented from obtaining certain medications used to prevent HIV such as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) by nursing home staff, these actions may be violations of the new law. Any facility found in violation of the law, or who employs a person found to be in violation of the law will be subjected to penalties or “other administrative actions” as provided by the Department of Health and its regulations.
This piece of landmark legislation was enacted in response to years of discrimination faced by the LGBTQI+ community in long-term care settings, as well as in the community at large. The legislative intent behind passing this law was to afford LGBTQI+ seniors with peace of mind when and if they required placement in one of New Jersey’s 360+ nursing facilities. But change takes time and effort. Having an attorney who is knowledgeable about this new legislation and LGBTQI+ and senior rights generally is extremely helpful in preventing and managing disputes between long-term care facilities and your loved ones.
If you or someone you know is an LGBTQI+ senior or an HIV-positive senior facing harassment or other civil rights violations in a New Jersey long-term care facility, please contact us at (732) 382-6070.