Gay people in the U.S. have made great strides in overcoming discrimination. From being the subject of slurs in the 1954 McCarthy Trials to the 2015 Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage legal nationwide, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans-Gender (LBGT) Americans have made remarkable advances on the path to equality.
Seattle—with the fifth largest LGBT population of any U.S. metropolitan area—has been in the forefront. In the late 1960’s, not one law — federal, state, or local — protected gay men or women from being fired or denied housing. But in the 1970’s, the Seattle City Council passed landmark revisions to the City’s Fair Employment Practices (1974) and Open Housing (1975) Ordinances, making it illegal for employers, landlords and home-sellers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Then Mayor and long-time Bayview Trustee, Wes Uhlman (image above), was a pivotal supporter of these measures. Uhlman also officially declared a Gay Pride Week in 1975, an historic first. And years of persistence by former state senators, Cal Anderson (now deceased) and Ed Murray led to legislation in 2012 making Washington the seventh state to make same-sex marriage legal.
Today, LGBT people enjoy vastly increased acceptance, wield substantial economic power and influence, and openly exercise leadership in our society. One recent study estimated the buying power of LBGT persons in the U.S. to be $884 billion. And consider the following openly gay leaders: Apple CEO, Tim Cook; Talk Show Host, Ellen DeGeneris; CNN Anchor, Anderson Cooper, and Seattle Mayor, Ed Murray.
Yet much more progress needs to be made, particularly for LBGT elders. The Administration on Aging estimates that there are 1.5 million LGBT people age 65 and older in the U.S., and this population will double by the year 2030. And despite data showing prosperity among the general gay population, LBGT elders have disproportionately higher levels of poverty, financial insecurity, and social isolation stemming lifetimes of discrimination.
Senior living facilities generally lag behind in creating welcoming and non-discriminatory environments for LGBT elders. For example, a 2014 study by the Equal Rights Center found that 48% of older same-sex couples experienced unequal treatment when inquiring about housing in a senior living facility, including less information about available units, higher costs and a more extensive application process.
Here we at Bayview look forward to becoming another Seattle leader in breaking down discrimination against LGBT people. For many years, the Bayview community has opened its doors and arms to LGBT older adults. And today, we are enriched by a good number of gay and lesbian elders who call Bayview home. Yet we too have much more to do in providing a welcoming and comfortable environment for LGBT elders. Pro-active marketing and sales, education in cultural competency, and varied pricing. It’s all part of moving forward.