By Emily Simonsen, External Affairs Intern
On February 23, 2016, Camille Brown, Fair Housing Coordinator for the Equal Rights Center, visited St. Petersburg, Florida to join a panel of speakers discussing LGBT rights and discrimination for older adults. Over 50 LGBT seniors showed up to the town hall to share with the panelists their own stories, resources and tips, helping add to the town hall’s success. In particular, town hall panelists touched on topics ranging from the implications of specific legal documents, to resources for persons requiring further advocacy and discrimination assistance.
For the event, Brown spoke on fair housing, her focus in the Equal Rights Center and one of the ERC’s primary program areas. Although Brown discussed steering – where renting managers will try persuading persons to rent certain units over other units – Brown’s biggest lessons learned from her particular discussion were the new concerns voiced over the ERC’s Opening Doors Report.
The report looked at the rate of housing discrimination against LGBT seniors, found via investigations. Findings from the report indicated that out of 96 of 200 conducted tests (48%) across 10 states, an LGBT senior with a spouse faced differential treatment (discrimination) compared to a heterosexual senior with a spouse, including but not limited to pricing, availability, fees, application requirements, and more.
These findings were particularly significant for the crowd, as they responded with various questions. Some seniors asked for clarification on Federal Fair Housing Act protected classes, while another senior asked about rates of discrimination in Florida, to which Brown responded that Florida’s rate matched national discrimination rates.
To ease some of the LGBT seniors’ concerns, Brown went on to discuss possible methods meant to combat discrimination like that identified in the report. As Brown referenced, the ERC offers all kinds of referrals to legal departments or secondary offices that can further scrutinize the discriminatory actions taken against an LGBT senior in order to get said senior the assistance they need.
With the event’s conclusion, the final takeaways were clear: LGBT seniors and supporters were granted greater access to rights-enforcement resources and learned more about their rights and discrimination via the Opening Doors Report, citizens were able to voice their concerns to the local organizations about issues they’ve faced, and the panelist organizations and leaders learned how to better serve the LGBT senior community.
“Overall, the event was very well put together. The experience was enlightening as I was able to hear new voices I wouldn’t have otherwise had the chance to encounter.” Said Brown.