New Jersey Democrat introduces bill to combat abuse against elderly LGBTQ population

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) announced new legislation this week that would help combat abuse against elderly LGBTQ Americans by establishing a task force within the Department of Justice (DOJ) to focus on solutions for the issue.

Gottheimer shared the news of the bill while hosting a roundtable with North Jersey LGBTQ community organizations and advocates. The legislation, dubbed the “Elder Pride Protection Act,” was developed with Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.). Both are members of the Congressional Equality Caucus.

If the bill passes, it will require the attorney general to establish a DOJ task force consisting of members from both the Elder Justice Initiative and the Office of Civil Rights, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The source said the duties of the task force would include studying increased incidents of elder abuse within the LGBTQ community. It would also develop a national approach to combat the issue and be engaged in finding best practices for local and state law enforcement to deal with it themselves.

The group would also create and distribute resources and materials on how to prevent and respond to incidents when abuse takes place, per the source. The force would compile reports and keep a progress log, which it will share with members of Congress.

“We know that elderly members of the LGBTQ+ community face abuse across our nation, but their voices aren’t being heard,” Gottheimer said Friday. “The reality is that organizations and government agencies aren’t tracking these heartbreaking attacks.”

“My new legislation is a critical step in ensuring that we can coordinate our response to this runaway abuse at the federal level,” he added.

The New Jersey Democrat said the idea for the bill came from the conversations he had at last year’s roundtable that took place in Fort Lee, N.J.

“We actually take what we discuss here, or in my office, and act on it,” Gottheimer said.

Many LGTBQ elders have reported challenges such as dealing with a diminishing support system and loneliness, data shows, but others face abuse that sometimes goes unreported.

A study from The National Center on Elder Abuse, released in 2021, found that 68 percent of elders surveyed within the LGBTQ community had experienced verbal harassment and 43 percent were threatened with violence. In another survey, per the release, 65 percent of those aged 60 or older reported dealing with victimization due to their sexual orientation, while 29 percent said they were physically attacked.

“No one should ever be mistreated on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, especially our vulnerable elderly populations,” Gottheimer said. “This legislation is a critical step in ensuring that we can coordinate our response to this runaway abuse at the federal level.”

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