Department of Justice Clarifies Police, Courts, Shelters, and Others Must Respect Gender Identity
This week the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) release long-awaited guidance on the 2013 law prohibiting discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity by entities funded under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). VAWA’s nondiscrimination protections provide broad protections, not only for LGBT survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, but for anyone else facing discrimination from law enforcement agencies, courts, or community groups that accept VAWA funding for any part of their operations. The guidelines clarify that refusing to accept a person’s self-identified gender when delivering services constitutes unlawful discrimination, and that in many cases segregating by gender in the first place is prohibited.
The guidance, from DOJ’s Office on Violence against Women, answers “Frequently Asked Questions” about the nondiscrimination law included in the 2013 reauthorization of VAWA, which for the first time explicitly prohibited discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in any program or activity funded in whole or in part by VAWA. Critically, the guidance clarifies that all VAWA-funded services must be open to all persons regardless of gender. Sex-segregated programs are permitted only when an agency can prove the services can’t be provided any other way—in which case, fully equivalent services must be provided to people of all genders.