Social Justice Monday—March 6, 2015
Submitted by Justin Abbasi, Law Library Intern
Growing attention has been paid to the needs of the aging baby boomer generation and there has been a shift in policies and attitudes toward the LGBT population, but little attention has been given to the intersection of these two groups: elderly people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Studies show that LGBT seniors face more barriers to accessing benefits, services, and justice than their heterosexual counterparts. The National Health, Aging, and Sexuality Study, “Caring and Aging with Pride over Time,” shows that LGBT seniors are less likely to be married or partnered and more likely to be disabled or be in long-term care. They are also more likely to be alienated from family and instead relying on friends who fill the function of family but may not be able to take care of them over the long haul.
Advocacy for LGBT elders is emerging as more elder law and LGBT law attorneys are paying attention to their unique needs. For example, in 2013, in U.S. vs. Windsor, the United States Supreme Court held that the federal interpretation of “marriage” and “spouse” apply only to heterosexual unions and the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. As a result, the plaintiff, Edith Windsor, was refunded $363,053 in estate taxes she was forced to pay after her married partner, Thea Spyer, passed away.
Three elder law attorneys—Eleanor Doermann ’12, Eileen Schock ’94, and Jamie Clausen—discussed the implications of U.S. vs. Windsor and other areas of advocacy for LGBT seniors including health care, benefits and estate planning.
Gay and lesbian elders: History, Law, and Identity Politics in the United States
By Nancy J. Knauer
Available at SU Law Library LAW-4th Floor (KF4754.5.K59 2011)
“The approximately two million gay and lesbian elders in the United States are an underserved and understudied population. At a time when gay men and lesbians enjoy an unprecedented degree of social acceptance and legal protection, many elders face the daily challenges of aging, isolated from family, detached from the larger gay and lesbian community, and ignored by mainstream aging initiatives. Drawing on materials from law, history, and social theory, this book integrates practical proposals for reform with larger issues of sexuality and identity. Beginning with a summary of existing demographic data and offering a historical overview of pre-Stonewall views of homosexuality in order to provide an introduction to the current generation of gay and lesbian elders, author Nancy J. Knauer goes on to address the invisibility of this community. She examines the multiple double binds central to their identity formation, including ageism among gays and lesbians and homophobia among seniors. Further, the book focuses on specific legal concerns such as estate planning, housing, discrimination, and financial insecurity, and how they impact this community uniquely. Integrating theory with practical questions of policy, and advancing a new understanding of the construction of sexuality and identity, this book advocates meaningful new reforms designed to ensure equity and dignity in aging regardless of sexual orientation.”
The Changing of the Guard: Lesbian and Gay elders, Identity, and Social Change
By Dana Rosenfeld
Available at SU Law Library LAW-Culp Collection (3rd Floor-Range A) (HQ76.3.U5R68 2003)
“One of the first books to link identity, age, and gender, The Changing of the Guard offers a significant meditation on the politics of older lesbians and gays. Combining interviews and sustained critical thought, Rosenfeld links the development of lesbian and gay elders’ identity with the key moments in the 20th century reinvention of homosexuality. In doing so, she bridges the gap between history and interaction that has characterized—and constrained—previous studies of identity.
Rosenfeld first summarizes the meaning of homosexuality that prevailed when her subjects came of age and the radical changes it underwent during their middle years. She uses these changes to trace the paths they took toward one of two homosexual identities: a discreditable one adopted before the advent of gay liberation, or an accredited one, adopted during and through those momentous years. She theorizes that there is the existence of two distinct identity “cohorts,” shaped by a willingness or resistance to accept the historical forces at work on lesbian and gay identity. Such decisions on identities, Rosenfeld argues, strongly shaped her subjects in later life, specifically their understanding of the nature of homosexuals and their implications for relations with other people, straight and gay alike, as well as for standards of “homosexual competence” they use to assess their own and others’ enactment of homosexuality.
An important book that challenges research on identity and identity formation, The Changing of the Guard rethinks how we have come to understand the meaning of homosexuality.”
Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Clients: a Lawyer’s Guide
By Joan M. Burda
Available at SU Law Library LAW-4th Floor (KF337.5.G38B87 2008)
“This book will introduce lawyers and their clients to the legal landscape as it relates to lesbian, gay and transgender persons today. This book provides the opportunity to look at legal issues from different perspectives. In addition to case law, statutes and a discussion of legal issues, this book also introduces the reader to people who make up the lesbian/gay/transgender community.”