The DOJ Must Act: Why Racial and Religious Profiling Rules Can’t Wait

October 20, 2014

BornSuspect_NAACPTrina, a transgender woman of color, is not a stranger to police profiling and harassment. When she was 17 years old, she an officer approached her while she was outside with friends at an LGBT community event in Manhattan’s West Village. Trina complied with the officer’s request to see her ID, and that’s when the officer began calling her a man and a “faggot.” Despite having a clean record, Trina was arrested that night because the officer found two condoms in her purse. The alleged crime was for prostitution and she was sent to the men’s holding area.

Transgender people are frequently profiled by law enforcement officers in the United States. Trina, along with other transgender and LGBT people, were among some of those profiled in an expansive new report by the NAACP called, “Born Suspect: Stop-and-Frisk Abuses & the Continued Fight to End Racial Profiling in America.” Released in September 2014—and in anticipation of action by the Department of Justice to address racial and religious profiling in federal investigations—the report documents and analyzes the effectiveness of racial profiling laws across the country. However, as the report states, “the current status of laws across the fifty states leaves little hope for a meaningful solution” to address racial profiling.

That is why guidelines on the use of racial and religious profiling from the Department of Justice are more important than ever—national standards are needed to ensure law enforcement nationwide remove racism and prejudice in their interactions with all people including transgender people of color.

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New WHO Report: Decriminalize Sex Work, Drug Use to Prevent Spread of HIV

July 31, 2014

A World Health Organization (WHO) report issued this month details guidelines to address policies on and treatment of HIV among vulnerable populations including transgender people. Notably, the report urges governments to decriminalize behaviors to more comprehensively and competently address the spread of HIV:

“Countries should work toward decriminalization of behaviours such as drug use/injecting, sex work, same-sex activity and nonconforming gender identities, and toward elimination of the unjust application of civil law and regulations against people who use/inject drugs, sex workers, men who have sex with men and transgender people​.

Improving policies that aid in HIV prevention and improve treatment requires, as the report notes, a combination of efforts. These efforts include making access to contraception, testing, and health facilities available to vulnerable populations; ending violence and stigma against vulnerable populations like transgender people and sex workers; and eliminating laws and policies that criminalize behaviors, which instill fear in these populations and deters individuals from seeking care.

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Justice Dept. Calls for End of HIV Criminalization Laws

July 18, 2014

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) welcomes Monday’s announcement from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that calls upon states to eliminate or reform their antiquated HIV criminalization laws, which criminalize conduct by HIV-positive individuals that would be legal if they were not HIV-positive or did not know their status. The DOJ’s guidelines, “Best Practices Guide to Reform HIV-Specific Criminal Laws to Align with Scientifically-Supported Factors,” explain how these laws are contrary to the science of HIV today and how these laws harm individuals and public health by reinforcing HIV stigma.

Over the decades, states have enacted or used existing criminal laws and policies, in the name of public health and safety, to effectively criminalize and silence persons living with HIV/AIDS. For example, state laws have been used to prosecute persons living with HIV when they failed to inform consensual sexual partners of their status—regardless of the actual risks involved or the precautions taken. In other examples, individuals have faced serious criminal charges based on actions like spitting that have no real risk of transmitting the virus.

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NCTE welcomes Philadelphia settlement with trans worker, lauds feds for supporting case

May 1, 2014

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) welcomes the news that the City of Philadelphia has finally settled a federal anti-bias lawsuit brought by city library worker Bobbie Burnett. Ms. Burnett was subjected to years of workplace harassment and other discrimination after she transitioned on the job in 2002. Managers allegedly restricted her use of women’s restrooms on the job, gave her undesirable job assignments, limited her contact with the public, and disciplined her for frivolous reasons.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a brief in federal district court supporting Ms. Burnett’s case and arguing that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on transgender status or gender transition. This filing is the latest signal that Federal Justice officials are taking the same position as the Departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development, and Health and Human Services, and the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: that federal sex discrimination laws protect transgender people.

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Expanded Federal Clemency Rules: Another Step Toward Ending Mass Incarceration

April 24, 2014

NCTE applauds the Justice Department’s announcement that it will broaden the criteria for clemency for federal prisoners. The Obama Administration’s action means that up to 2,000 people convicted of nonviolent offenses have a shot at shortening draconian sentences. 

This is another important step reflecting the growing bipartisan consensus that we lock up far too many people today for far too long, at tremendous human and fiscal cost,” said NCTE Director of Policy Harper Jean Tobin. 

NCTE was proud to recently publish “Standing with LGBT Prisoners: An Advocate’s Guide to Ending Abuse and Combating Imprisonment,” which focuses primarily on changing the conditions for LGBT and especially trans people inside prisons and jails. But we know that there is no such thing as a truly safe and decent prison for trans people, and far too many of our community are incarcerated.

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Dept. of Justice Unveils Transgender Law Enforcement Training

March 28, 2014

Yesterday, US Department of Justice (DOJ) Associate Attorney General Tony West launched the Transgender Law Enforcement Training, a first-of-its kind cultural competency training by a federal agency for local law enforcement.

With input from the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and other local and national organizations, the new training will help local authorities improve their interactions with transgender people. Ultimately, the training aims to prevent mistreatment and restore trust between police officers and transgender people who have often faced profiling and violence from law enforcement.

Advocates at the Dept. of Justice Unveiling of the Transgender Law Enforcement Training

Photo: Ruby Corado

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