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White House Gags Older Gays

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White House Gags Older Gays

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: December 13, 2005 7:00 pm ET

(Washington) Once every 10 years authorities on aging gather for the White House Conference on Aging (WHCoA). They meet, present papers and make recommendations to the President and the Congress on national aging policies for the future.

The 2005 WHCoA is the fifth in the history of the United States and the first of the 21st Century.

But, this conference, under the Bush Administration, any discussion on aging in the LGBT community has been squelched.

Today at a press conference elder advocates challenged the administration for refusing to include sexual orientation, gender identity and other vulnerable populations in its resolutions.

In addition, critics — including some WHCoA delegates — said rigid conference procedures and vague resolutions are preventing substantive discussion of critical aging issues, such as improving the cultural competency of service providers; providing adequate funding for the implementation of elder care services; and bolstering the economic security of a diverse aging population.

“The amount of control over this conference is appalling,” said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

“It’s outrageous that, in 2005 at the White House Conference on Aging, LGBT issues are not only excluded, but that there is no opportunity to officially introduce these issues into the discussion whatsoever.”

By contrast, more than 2,200 delegates attended the 1995 conference, which allowed for resolutions to be submitted by delegates and considered on the floor.

This year, procedures permit no such input from delegates, whose numbers this year have been restricted to just 1,200.

Sexual orientation and gender identity were included in 1995 resolutions. Now, 10 years later, sexual orientation and gender identity were not even included in resolutions at any juncture — nor has there been any opportunity for such inclusion — at WHCoA, which concludes on Wednesday.

Official WHCoA delegate Terry Kaelber — the only delegate invited from an LGBT organization — slammed the WHCoA at today’s press conference at the WHCoA site in Washington, saying there has been a “concerted effort” by the administration to “limit discussion and control the outcome” at the WHCoA.

“The process has been to exclude, not include,” said Kaelber, executive director of Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE). The New York delegation fired off a letter to the WHCoA policy committee — whose members are appointed by the president and Congress and in essence runs the show — questioning the integrity of the entire process. The letter was unanimously adopted by the delegation late last night and sent to the committee. The California delegation also expressed similarly strong criticism of the undemocratic process at the WHCoA.

Speakers at the press conference said government’s failure to officially acknowledge the existence of LGBT elders means many of that population’s particular needs will continue to go unmet.

Those concerns include the creation of an accepting climate among senior service providers so that LGBT elders are not forced to compromise their sexual orientation or gender identity in order to receive medical care and services. There is a need for caregivers who are properly trained in working with LGBT seniors.

Additionally elder care workers say there is a need to strengthen the legal recognition of LGBT relationships, including more equitable taxation, the ability to make medical care decisions and hospital visitation rights; and the need for meaningful participation in planning.

©365Gay.com 2005

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