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conference leaves out gay seniors, activists charge

White House
conference leaves out gay seniors, activists charge

A once-a-decade conference on aging Americans largely excluded issues of concern to gay seniors, say gay rights leaders.

Declaring that older gay Americans are being marginalized, gay rights leaders in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday blasted the organizers of this week's White House Conference on Aging, a summit held once a decade that recommends policy changes to the president and Congress on issues affecting the approximately 78 million Americans age 60 and over. According to those in attendance, this summit was significantly less focused on making concrete policy suggestions than the 1995 conference, specifically in regard to issues facing older gay Americans, such as HIV, housing, and discrimination.

"The conference itself provides no opportunities to submit resolutions or to significantly change resolutions," said Roberta Sklar, director of communications for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, an advocacy group for gay issues. "It reflects not just the lack of interest but the conscious effort to squelch the interests of [the LGBT] community."

"The way this conference compares to the last one is stunning and deplorable," added Task Force executive director Matt Foreman. Amber Hollibaugh, senior strategist for the Task Force, described the conference as being dominated by commerce--specifically, businesses shilling products aimed at the aging community. "[The conference setup] was a slap in the face to all of us," she said. "[The organizers] thought of aging as a marketplace, a place to make a profit."

A 17-member policy committee directs the Conference on Aging, with the president selecting nine members and Congress picking eight. Hollibaugh said the Task Force, along with other groups that attended the conference such as SAGE--Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Elders--will be contacting politicians to voice their dissatisfaction with the White House's handling of the conference. "There may be many ramifications," Hollibaugh said. "There's going to be a great deal of follow-up work." (Advocate.com)

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