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LGBT Advocates Commend New VAWA Non-Discrimination Guidance, Urge Other Federal Agencies to Follow Lead
April 24, 2014
As advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, we applaud the Department of Justice for issuing strong implementing guidelines for the historic non-discrimination provisions in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), ensuring that LGBT survivors of violence receive equal services and treatment free from unlawful discrimination. The recently released Frequently Asked Questions about the new provisions are precedent-setting and will be a guide for other federal agencies on how to implement LGBT non-discrimination provisions. These provisions mark the first ever explicit protections from discrimination for LGBT people under federal law.
This guidance is a significant step forward because it makes clear that federal tax dollars under VAWA can't be used to discriminate against LGBT people. If a grantee receives any funding under VAWA, all activities of that entity are covered by the non-discrimination mandate (including employment), as well as activities that aren't related to or funded by the Department of Justice. This is hugely important because VAWA funding is disbursed to many agencies and programs around the country, including many rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, legal services, housing programs, education and prevention campaigns, courts, prosecutors, police and sheriff's departments, as well as state agencies that administer VAWA funds.
As part of this guidance, the Office of Violence Against Women in the Department of Justice (OVW) announced a framework for analyzing the limited conditions for services that are segregated or specific to gender and prohibited justifications based on overbroad assumptions or past practice. In the limited case where gender-segregated services are proven to be essential, meaningful comparable services must be provided. The policy is also historic because it is the first time a federal agency has clearly stated that non-discrimination on the basis of gender identity means that all transgender people are to be housed and provided with other services according to their self-identified gender. The guidance makes clear that transgender people can't be turned away or treated differently just because another client complains about being around a transgender person, and that staff cannot ask invasive personal questions to get a transgender person to "prove" their gender.
We urge the Department of Justice to formalize this historic guidance in binding regulations, as is standard practice with other major civil rights laws. We look forward to other federal agencies following the lead of the Department of Justice and applying similar interpretations of other laws and regulations prohibiting discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
New York City Anti-Violence Project
212.714.1184 x 26
National Center for Transgender Equality
Vincent Paolo Villano
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
GLBTQ Domestic Violence Project
Human Rights Campaign
April 14, 2014
Washington, DC - This week the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) Commissioner, Joette Katz, transferred a 16-year-old transgender girl to an adult prison despite the lack of any criminal charges against her.
The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) issued a letter today urging Commissioner Katz to seek immediate removal of this youth from an adult prison.
In response to this development, NCTE Director of Policy Harper Jean Tobin released the following statement:
"There just doesn't appear to be any reason for DCF, which has custody of hundreds of traumatized and troubled youth every year, to do something it has not done in this century: sending a girl who is neither an adult nor a criminal to an adult prison."
"Minors in adult prisons are extraordinarily vulnerable, and transgender youth are extremely vulnerable. We hope the Department of Corrections will do the right thing by keeping this young woman in the York women's institution and not isolating her so long as it has custody, but ultimately this youth belongs with girls her own age."
A publication released last week by the National Center for Transgender Equality aims to help LGBT groups around the country advocate for transgender people in jails and prisons, including young people. The resource, "Standing With LGBT Prisoners: An Advocate's Guide to Ending Abuse and Combating Imprisonment," is the nation's most comprehensive publication on how advocates and allies can address the harms faced by LGBT prisoners.
To speak with Harper Jean Tobin, please contact Vincent Paolo Villano / email@example.com / 202-631-9640.
April 8, 2014
Washington, DC - The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) lauds President Obama's effort to close the gender gap in wages by signing two executive orders and commemorating Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 as "National Equal Pay Day." President Obama's actions reaffirm executive authority to help end pervasive discrimination among federal contractors and highlights the need to extend similar protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans.
NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling, who attended today's signing, said, "The wage gap has been a persistent problem for trans women whose skills and contributions in the workplace are often under-valued by their employers. Partially, this is because they're trans and partially because they're women. Today's executive orders works to end half of these inequalities for some people, but a holistic view of the problem demands President Obama sign the executive order banning LGBT discrimination in federal contracting."
Issuing the LGBT nondiscrimination executive order would protect 16 million workers and stresses the significance of passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). After bi-partisan passage in the U.S. Senate in 2013, ENDA awaits action in the U.S. House. ENDA would ensure that transgender and LGB Americans would not have to hide who they are or who they love to earn a living and support their families.
"NCTE lauds the Obama Administration's orders on the minimum wage and overtime pay earlier this year and on the gender gap today. However, these orders also serve to draw attention to the inaction on nondiscrimination in federal contracting," said Keisling. "The Obama Administration should adhere to their commitment to helping all Americans thrive by banning LGBT workplace discrimination."
To speak Mara Keisling, please contact Vincent Paolo Villano / firstname.lastname@example.org / 202-631-9640.
March 27, 2014
Washington DC - Today, with passage of the Fairness for All Marylanders Act through the House of Delegates, Maryland is poised to join 17 states plus DC and Puerto Rico in explicitly banning workplace discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression in employment, housing, credit, and public accommodations. The Senate passed the bill previously and Governor O'Malley is expected to sign it.
According to the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey transgender Marylanders faced high rates of discrimination in everyday life. Because of their transgender identity, 71% of transgender Marylanders faced harassment or mistreatment at work, 17% reported being denied a home or apartment, and over half were verbally harassed or disrespected in a place of public accommodation or service.
The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) applauds state and local advocates as well as allied legislators in Maryland for this important step forward for transgender Marylanders.
NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling welcomes the bill's passage, "With each new state joining the side of fairness and equality, we move closer to explicitly banning job discrimination against transgender people nationwide. After years of advocacy and organizing in Annapolis, Maryland's choice to stand behind transgender people is a reminder to our elected officials on Capitol Hill that it's overdue for them to take action on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act."
Washington, DC - The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the Transgender Law Center (TLC) express disappointment in the final standards published today by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to address the severe problem of sexual abuse in immigration detention. While the final standards contain some valuable provisions, they fall short of the minimum steps needed to address the ongoing crisis of sexual abuse in immigration detention. In particular, the standards--which are, in key respects, weaker than those adopted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2012 for prisons and jails--lack critical protections for transgender immigrants, who are among the most highly vulnerable to sexual abuse.
"The rules released by DHS today are not adequate to protect the safety of tens of thousands of real people who are at risk in detention every day," said NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling. "While NCTE will work with our allies to see that the positive steps that did make it into the DHS rules are fully implemented, far more needs to be done to reform and ultimately end mass detention." Olga Tomchin, Soros Justice Fellow at the Transgender Law Center said, "It is a cruel irony that trans immigrants who flee persecution and believe they will be safe in the U.S. are then often met with state violence and further retraumatized by horrific treatment based on their trans status."
The weakness of the final rule is deeply concerning in light of the recent findings by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) that as many as 40% of allegations of sexual abuse are not reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) headquarters, that barriers to reporting abuse exist, and that compliance with existing sexual abuse standards is not consistently monitored. Notwithstanding these systemic failures, 20% of substantiated allegations of abuse found by CRS involved transgender victims--a percentage far exceeding their representation in the detained population.
NCTE Director of Policy Harper Jean Tobin said, "This is a tremendous missed opportunity which adds urgency to ending our multibillion dollar mass incarceration of immigrants. The lack of adequate protections for transgender immigrants in particular makes it clear that these vulnerable individuals are not safe in detention facilities and should no longer be detained."
Among many other protections left out of the final rule, DHS refused to add provisions prohibiting retaliatory deportation of those who report abuse; refused to strengthen protections from abusive searches or from excessive discipline of civil detainees; and refused to require facilities to use objective screening instruments. The standards fail to end long-term solitary confinement as a means of "protection," stating a presumptive limit of 30 days--twice the time period studies have shown can have lasting medical harms--and providing no real assurance that isolation will not go on even longer. Perhaps most concerning, the rules will not apply at all to many ICE contract facilities until "substantive contract modifications" with ICE occur. In other words, many facilities could remain unaffected for years to come.
Tomchin added, "Detained transgender immigrants, including our clients, frequently experience such intolerable conditions in ICE custody that they desperately agree to give up their cases and risk persecution and death after deportation rather than remain in solitary one day longer. ICE is clearly incapable of detaining trans people with even minimum levels of dignity and safety and thus must no longer detain trans immigrants."
With regard to transgender detainees, the final standards remain inadequate. DHS weakened protections provided by the DOJ PREA rule, and refused to include protections already routinely provided by many corrections and law enforcement agencies around the country. The result is that transgender detainees are left unprotected from abuse when taking showers or being searched by staff, or from being subject to punitive and discriminatory conditions on the pretext of protecting them from abuse. Moreover, the final rules permit facilities to automatically relegate detainees to restrictive "LGBT pods," which the DOJ rules banned and which the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission called "demoralizing and dangerous."
Notably, section 115.42(b) of the final rule codifies language that already existed, but which DHS has completely failed to implement, in its 2011 detention standards. This section requires that housing decisions for transgender detainees never be made solely on the basis of identity documents or physical anatomy, and instead be made on a case-by-case basis that considers a detainee's self-identification and self-assessment of safety. By its plain language, this provision applies to all housing decisions, including the decision of whether a detainee should be placed in female or male housing. This means that transgender women must be housed with other women in appropriate cases, genital anatomy notwithstanding. Although this requirement already exists in its standards, DHS has continued to house all transgender women with men based on their anatomy. Now that this rule has been codified in a binding regulation, NCTE and TLC will look to DHS to ensure it is following the law by making these placements in a meaningful number of cases for those transgender women who continue to be detained.
"We are deeply disturbed by how these regulations fail our community and clients. In particular, instead of 'protecting' transgender immigrants, placing them in solitary confinement based solely on their gender identity causes real psychological and emotional damage, especially for those asylum seekers who are already suffering from PTSD and have a history of bias-motivated arrest and detention in their birth countries," said Tomchin.
Ultimately, the numerous shortcomings of the final rule underscore that the mass incarceration of nearly 400,000 people a year in immigration detention is a failed and dangerous policy, and that immigration detention continues to be unacceptably harsh, hazardous, and unnecessary for transgender people in particular. To make matters worse, most transgender immigrants are asylum-seekers, and face unusually long periods of detention. NCTE and TLC call on President Obama and Secretary Jeh Johnson to ensure that vulnerable transgender immigrants are paroled or placed in alternative forms of custody to the maximum extent allowable by law. NCTE and TLC further calls on the President to abandon the $2 billion-dollar "bed quota" in his 2015 budget proposal, which requires incarcerating an arbitrary number of immigrants at all times.
To speak with Mara Keisling or Harper Jean Tobin, please contact Vincent Paolo Villano at email@example.com / (o) 202-903-0112, (c) 202-631-9640. To speak with Masen Davis or Olga Tomchin, please contact Mark Snyder at firstname.lastname@example.org / 415-865-0176 x310
The Associated Press reported today that the social media giant, Facebook, will provide 50 different terms for people to use to identify their gender in addition to three preferred pronoun choices: him, her or them. The changes go into effect on Thursday, February 13, 2014 and the options in the list will evolve based on user input.
Learn more here.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed a new rule that will extend protection from discrimination, in programs and activities conducted by the Department, on the basis of gender identity and political affiliation. Last revised in 1999 to add sexual orientation, this amendment to the USDA's non-discrimination regulations will protect transgender and gender nonconforming people seeking loans and assistance in agriculture and rural communities.
Learn more here.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), and the Williams Institute, released new analysis from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS), which was released by NCTE and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in 2011. This report uses the 6,456 accounts of discrimination from transgender and gender non-conforming (GNC) adults (compiled in NTDS), to find unprecedented links between experiences of discrimination, and suicide attempts among transgender people.
Learn more here.