DOJ tackles trans inmate abuse

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Justice has issued the guideline National Standards to Prevent, Detect and Respond to Prison Rape. Building on recommendations provided by the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and many allied advocates, the policy includes critical provisions for the operation of prisons and the treatment of transgender and gender nonconforming inmates, all aimed at ending sexual abuse.

These standards represent nearly a decade of study and effort to comprehensively address rampant sexual abuse in confinement. They address several problems transgender and intersex people face, including:

  • Requiring a case-by-case consideration for housing in a male or female facility that is not based on genital status, meaning more trans women will be housed with other women.
  • Limiting the use of isolating “protective custody” that can amount to torture.
  • Limiting the use of segregated LGBTI units that are often treated as a quick fix and can stigmatize individuals.
  • Requiring staff training for professional communication with and treatment of transgender and gender nonconforming inmates and those with intersex conditions to aid in assessing inmate vulnerabilities to sexual abuse.
  • Banning the search or physical examination of transgender inmates and those with intersex conditions solely for determining their genital status.
  • Minimizing stigma and the threat of abuse from staff by disallowing dedicated LGBTQI units and facilities.
  • Requiring facilities to have multiple channels for reporting abuse without placing a time limit on when inmates can file grievances.

NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling said, “We have an obligation as civilized people to protect the people we incarcerate. That has always been an American promise, but one we have barely tried to keep. These new standards, if fully implemented, have the potential to help us keep that promise at least in terms of sexual assault.”

Hate violence against gay men

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — According to a new study from the Williams Institute, gay men face higher rates of hate-motivated physical violence than lesbians, bisexuals or other federally protected groups with high rates of hate crimes. This revelation is especially troubling since prior research has shown that sexual orientation-motivated hate crimes tend to be more violent.

Among the research findings, 26 in 100,000 gay men reported being victims of hate-motivated crimes against persons, compared to 10 in 100,000 lesbians, 5 in 100,000 African-Americans and 5 in 100,000 Jewish Americans. Gay men also face the second highest risk of being victims of hate-motivated property crime (9 in 100,000 gay men). Further, reporting of such hate crimes is likely under-represented since data reflect only those who report such crimes to local law enforcement, who then choose whether to report the data to the FBI.

“These findings suggest that additional research is needed to explore why gay men are more likely to experience and/or report physical victimization and crimes against their property,” said the study’s author, Rebecca L. Stotzer, Associate Professor and the Director of Distance Education at the University of Hawaii-Mnoa and Visiting Scholar at the Williams Institute.

House victimizes abuse victims

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a highly partisan vote, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill May 16 reauthorizing its watered down version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Unlike the bipartisan and LGBT-inclusive Senate version, the House bill fails to address discrimination faced by LGBT victims of domestic violence. The House version passed 222-205, with 216 GOP members in favor and 23 opposed. Among Democrats, only 6 supported the measure while 182 voted against it.

Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) wanted to offer an amendment to the bill that would have increased protections for LGBT victims, but the House Republican leadership blocked her from even offering the amendment.

Studies show that LGBT people face domestic violence at the same rates as other communities: 25-33 percent. Yet, a 2011 survey found that nearly 85 percent of service providers worked with LGBT clients who reported that they had been turned away or denied services because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Senate bill for DP benefits

WASHINGTON, D.C. — LGBT leaders hailed the approval of the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act (DPBO) S.1910 in the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. The bill, sponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME), would provide benefits for same-sex domestic partners of federal civilian employees on the same basis as spousal benefits. These benefits would include participation in retirement programs, life and health insurance benefits, and family and medical leave. Activists are calling for a full Senate vote.

“DPBO is about the basic concept of fairness in the workplace,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “The federal government would be wise to follow the private sector in offering equal pay for equal work. America’s major corporations have discovered that equality is not only the right thing to do, but good for business.”

Currently, 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies provide domestic partner benefits to their employees. In addition, 24 states, the District of Columbia and more than 100 local governments offer their public employees these benefits.

Study details gays and the law

GENEVA, Switzerland — A new report reveals that 78 countries out of 193 still have legislation criminalizing same-sex consensual acts between adults. Punishments range from a number of lashes (e.g. Iran) to two months in prison (e.g. Algeria) to life sentence (e.g. Bangladesh) or even death (Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen). Among the 113 countries where homosexuality is legal, 55 have legislation against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation at the workplace, in 10 gays and lesbians enjoy full equal marriage rights, in 12 they can adopt children.

The findings are contained in the 6th edition of the State-Sponsored Homophobia Report presented here May 16 by ILGA, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, on the occasion of the 8th annual celebration of IDAHO, the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

David Stout

David Stout is the associate editor of QNotes. He can be reached at