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May 21, 2014

After Marriage Equality, What’s Next?

Today's post is from Serena Worthington, Director of National Field Initiatives for SAGE. Follow Serena on Twitter at @SerenaWorthy

As marriage equality becomes law in state after state including my home, Illinois, many advocacy organizations are asking themselves and their communities, “What’s next?” With this in mind, I was excited to present at the LGBT Equality Institute hosted by Equality Illinois on May 17, the 10th anniversary of the legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts (the first state to do so). 

The Institute focused on myriad issues still facing the LGBT community. I asked Roey Thorpe, Director of Advocacy Programs for the Equality Federation, if community conversations like this are the trend and the answer was a great, big, “Yes!”  Thorpe says that “What’s next?” is of the biggest questions facing the LGBT movement right now.

She also said that for “activists in states that have achieved their legislative agendas, the challenge is to reframe our work and continue to motivate and inspire people so that we maintain the political power we have worked so hard to build. We still have so much work ahead of us: making discrimination illegal in the remaining 29 states; reducing violence against transgender people; and achieving the policy solutions that have eluded us.”

Roey adds, “In the many states where people are grappling with this question have shifted their focus from legislation toward ‘lived equality,’ looking at the experience of LGBT people and our loved ones from cradle to grave, understanding where the disparities exist and creating approaches that will make a real difference in the quality of life for our communities."

For more on the 29 states without discrimination protections for LGBT people, check out this eye-opening map from the Center for American Progress.

Serena Worthington with Gautam Raghavan, White House Public Engagement Advisor on LGBT Issues


The Institute drew 150 attendees from across Illinois drawn by a slate of great topics. I attended two excellent sessions: a keynote panel on the Federal LGBT Policy Agenda with U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a senior member of the Illinois Congressional Delegation, Gautam Raghavan, White House Public Engagement Advisor on LGBT Issues, and Meg Gorecki, Midwest Director for the U.S. Department of Justice and a session on Access to Health Care as a Civil Rights Issue.

In the latter session, David Munar, the newly appointed Executive Director of Howard Brown Health Center, addressed the question of the day directly, saying that, "Achieving marriage equality is great but how do we harness that energy to improve health care access across every letter of the L, G, B and T and across the entire age span?”

Over the years, I have co-presented with Britta Larson, Director of Senior Services, at SAGE Center on Halsted many times and it was a great pleasure to do so again. During our session, LGBT Older Adults: Preparing for the Age Wave, we reviewed the culture, needs and concerns of LGBT older adults and offered best practices on how to better serve LGBT older adults who are currently seeking access to basic services. A number of people raised concerns about the readiness of mainstream aging providers to serve LGBT elders. I was glad to be part of the larger conversation about where the LGBT movement is headed and to have the opportunity to hear from LGBT elders about their priorities.



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What's next for marriage equality is a legal challenge to Medicaid's marriage inequality policy. Inside Health Policy described the challenge by the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness to Medicaid's decision permitting states to choose which marriage licenses to respect as follows,

"The Center for Regulatory Effectiveness is challenging CMS for not requiring states to recognize legally married gay couples, and the regulatory watchdog group recommends that CMS adopt FDA's definition of 'spouse.' Without the protections of a married couple, nursing homes could take all jointly-held assets, which could leave spouses of the institutionalized homeless, the group states in a petition, adding that the Medicaid policy contradicts the agency's policy for Medicare and the exchanges."

CRE's petition is available online, http://thecre.com/pdf/MarriageEquality.MedicaidRequestForCorrection.26May2014.pdf

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