This week I talked with Elizabeth Schwartz, Co-chair of the Board of Directors of SAGE (Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders) about their upcoming event that takes place February 6th in Miami at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables from 6P to 8P. The evening will be honoring LGBT Pioneer Activists Ruth Berman and Connie Kurtz. The SAGE & Friends Miami fundraising event supports SAGE's important work on behalf of LGBT older adults locally and nationally. This generation of gays and lesbians who are now approaching their 70s and 80s are unfortunately facing new discriminations as they age. Entering independent and assisted living facilities as well as receiving other services has presented enormous problems for some elderly gay and lesbians who must confront a still existing ignorance that forces them back into the closet. One of SAGE's missions is to educate these facilities and all services offered to our older LGBT population so that they can continue to enjoy this stage of their lives with a sense of openness and acceptance. The SAGE & Friends Miami event will be an evening of cocktails and delicious snacks at a gorgeous venue, all for an effective organization and critical cause. I talked to Elizabeth about this fabulous event and her spin on our LGBT issues.
When asked what her personal commitment is to LGBT civil rights Schwartz stated:
I've always been committed to this cause. I've been involved in LGBT activism for decades and on various issues but especially since I've seen older people in my life get exploited and taken advantage of and left destitute, it's definitely been a real call to action. But I'll say even through action, I worked to repeal the marriage ban and to repeal the adoption ban in the state of Florida and to do lots of work to agitate for change, I'm very mindful that marriage equality came too late for many people in our community and definitely came too late for a lot of older adults who perhaps might have been with their partners for decades but weren't married long enough to get social security survivor benefits, weren't married in the right jurisdiction or died too soon or lost parental rights because they weren't able to adopt soon enough. So I feel like while many people seem to be thinking that marriage equality means, we're done, we're out, I feel like doubling down now and I feel like now is when we really need to ramp-up and tweak the rights for the rest of everyone else for whom marriage came too late or it doesn't solve the problem. You know like folks who are still working and so you get married on Sunday and Monday get fired from their job, treatment that LGBT older adults are receiving in nursing homes and facilities are so abominable and there is so much we can do and I feel since we got the momentum from our marriage win and folks are starting to wake up and see like, OK maybe LGBT people are humans deserving rights and dignity that now is our opportunity to keep that momentum going and to really ramp-up the protections that we provide for everyone in our community.
Elizabeth Schwartz has been practicing law since 1997 and is one of Florida's best-known advocates for the legal rights of our LGBT community. While her firm equally works with straight and gay clients in matters of family law, estate planning and probate, she has been at the forefront of providing crucial legal protections for LGBT families. Elizabeth lectures locally, nationally and internationally about the impact of nationwide marriage equality and the continued importance of LGBT couples protecting their loved ones through estate planning, stepparent and second parent adoption.