LGBT elders in Puerto Rico have become even more vulnerable after Hurricane Maria because of discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and poverty.
But the Puerto Rican government is stepping up to protect them in another step forward.
Puerto Rico has been making recent strides in LGBT equality. In March of this year, the governor signed an executive order banning conversion therapy.
On Tuesday, the first center for LGBT elders opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The center is located in a city-owned building on San Juan’s Américo Miranda Avenue and will be fully operational next month.
The building is opening a little less than two years since Hurricane Maria made landfall and devastated the island. Elderly Puerto Ricans are some of the most vulnerable on the island, combining their ailing health with lack of aid from the U.S. and endemic poverty.
Add to that discrimination against LGBT elderly people, and it’s a recipe for disaster.
Puerto Rico has a higher percentage of people 65 or older than any U.S. state and seniors accounted for a disproportionate number of the 2,975 deaths attributed to Hurricane Maria, according to a recent report by the Milken Institute for Public Health.
Elderly people living in rural areas were especially hard hit because supplies and repairs were not able to make it to those living in hard-to-reach places on the island.
The current White House has done little for Puerto Rico and wants to do even less. President Donald Trump has lied openly about the amount of aid being sent to the territory and its American citizens and Republicans are determined to keep Puerto Rico dependent on oil and gas companies in the United States.