Issues: Elder Law

Whether navigating end-of-life issues, selecting a safe assisted-living facility, or simply drafting a will, LGBT seniors are entitled to fully equality and basic protections, and access to services and information to make critical decisions.

In 1999, NCLR was the first LGBT legal organization to launch a permanent Elder Law Project as the first wave of baby boomers became senior citizens. The Elder Law Project advocates for policies and legislation to protect the medical and financial rights of LGBT elders, and educates the professionals who are charged with assisting them.

news & opinion


New Guidance from HHS Protects LGBT Elders
7.01.13 (Washington, D.C., July 1, 2013)—The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), a division of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has issued an official guidance making it clear that same-sex partners and others must be given equal visitation rights at long-term care facilities, regardless of their marital status. This new guidance applies to all long-term care facilities receiving Medicare and Medicaid funding, including nursing homes and hospice facilities. The guidance states that all patients in these facilities must be given the right to receive visitors of their choosing, regardless of whether the patient and visitors have a legally recognized or biological relationship. The guidance explicitly states that discrimination against the same-sex spouse or partner seeking to visit a patient is prohibited.

Press Release

NCLR Elder Law Project, San Francisco Human Rights Commission Co-Host Groundbreaking Meeting Addressing Issues Facing LGBTQ Elders of Color
7.27.12—Yesterday, the National Center for Lesbian Rights Elder Law Project and the San Francisco Human Rights Commission co-hosted “Setting the Agenda: Issues Facing LGBTQ Elders of Color,” a groundbreaking meeting that brought together representatives from nearly two dozen government agencies and organizations to discuss key issues and obstacles facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer elders of color.

Press Release

New Guide for LGBT Elders in California Provides Comprehensive Information About Their Rights and Benefits
12.20.11—A pioneering new guide released today gives California’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender elders—who are more likely to face discrimination, be low-income, and live in poverty—comprehensive information about their rights and the services that are available to them as they navigate the system of public and social benefits.


NCLR, HUD, HHS Co-Host First-Ever National Summit on LGBT Elder Housing, Health, and Long-Term Care Issues
Statement by NCLR Federal Policy Director Maya Rupert
12.09.11—This week, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) co-hosted a day-long summit on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender elder housing issues with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This is the first-ever national event to address housing, health and long-term care issues for LGBT elders. More than 90 people registered for the event, and the list of attendees included three assistant secretaries.

from the docket

Victory! (California)

Greene v. County of Sonoma et al.
In a tragic case that touched the hearts of thousands across the country, NCLR clients Clay Greene and the estate of Harold Scull, Greene's deceased partner of 20 years, reached a settlement on July 22 resolving their lawsuit against the County of Sonoma and other defendants..

Victory! (California)

Burrows v. ILWU
Marvin Burrows and his partner William Swenor were together for 51 years. Burrows and Swenor did everything within their power to demonstrate their commitment to each other and to provide for the surviving partner in the event of one partner's death, including registering as domestic partners. Swenor worked as a warehouse crew leader for more than 35 years. Throughout Swenor's employment, he was a member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and contributed to their pension plan.

Victory! (Florida)

Lewis & Ortiz-Taylor v. Westminster Oaks Retirement Community
NCLR clients Sheila Ortiz-Taylor and Joy Lewis reached a confidential settlement with Presbyterian Retirement Communities, Inc., a national chain of retirement communities.

publications & downloads

Frequently Asked Questions on AB 641: Important New Medicaid Spousal Impoverishment Protections in California (pdf)

On Wednesday, June 13, 2012, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services approved California’s plan to extend Medi-Cal spousal impoverishment protections to same-sex couples. What does this mean for LGBT people in California?

Navigating the System: A Know-Your-Rights Guide for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Elders in California (pdf)

This pioneering new guide includes comprehensive information about your rights and the services that are available to you as you navigate the system of public and social benefits in California.

Cómo Navegar el Sistema: Una guía para conocer sus derechos diseñada para las personas lesbianas, gay, bisexual y transgéneras de tercera edad en California (pdf)

Esta nueva guía incluye información comprensiva sobre sus derechos y los servicios que están disponibles para usted mientras que navega por el sistema de prestaciones públicos y sociales en California.

LGBT Older Adults in Long-Term Care Facilities: Stories from the Field (pdf)

A new survey released in April 2011 shows that the majority of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) older adults who provided answers believe that staff of long-term care facilities would discriminate against an LGBT elder who was open about his or her sexual orientation, and more than half believe that staff or other residents would abuse or neglect an LGBT elder.

Lifelines: Documents to Protect You and Your Family (pdf)

This publication contains information about essential documents that will help you protect yourself and your loved ones in the event of illness, disability, or death.

Planning with Purpose: Legal Basics for LGBT Elders (pdf)

This guide provides basic information about select areas of the law that are important to LGBT elders, especially individuals and couples who are age 55 and over, based on NCLR’s experience advocating for LGBT elders. Written for LGBT elders and their families and caregivers, it includes information about issues related to relationship recognition, finances, health care, long term care, planning for the care of minor or disabled children, inheritance, elder abuse, and discrimination against LGBT elders. Planning with Purpose covers many of areas where rights, benefits, and protections are generally provided to heterosexual people based on spousal status, but are denied to same-sex couples, even if married or in other legal unions. Where there are particular considerations for transgender people, this guide notes them. Throughout, this publication recommends securing competent legal counsel with experience in LGBT and elder law issues, and emphasizes that advance planning is key.

California Public Benefits Issues for LGBT Clients: A Guide for Attorneys and Advocates (pdf)

This publication is a guide for attorneys and advocates in California who are representing LGBT clients seeking public benefits.

Legal and Public Policy Issues for Transgender Elders (pdf)

Transgender elders face unique and often extreme forms of discrimination. They are denied medical care, excluded from housing and social services, and despised simply for being who they are.


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