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California’s New Bill Records Anti-LGBT Crime

California’s state senate recently passed a new bill, AB 1094, which aims to track the deaths of LGBT people. The bill, which was passed unanimously, means “the California Department of Public Health will start a three-year program that would train medical examiners and coroners to identify and collect information on a victim’s sexual orientation and gender identity in cases of violent death,” according to Gay Times. “Homicide, use of deadly force by police and suicide are set to be included in the extensive training.”

The importance of data

Young people, LGBT or not, already have outrageously high records of suicide, including ideation. “Data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that 17.4 percent of high school students in New York State in 2017 seriously considered suicide,” according to Gay City News. “Between 2007 and 2018, the suicide rate among people ages 10 and 24 went up by 57 percent — and 42 states saw significant increases in suicide rates during that time.”

Getting statistics surrounding how suicide (and homicide) is impacted by being a member of the LGBT community is complicated without bills like AB 1094. Without it, suicide and homicide data is recorded without enough analysis surrounding the link to experiences like homophobia.

Dr Joaquin Arambula, the assembly member who introduced the legislation to the senate, described its importance in a heartfelt statement. “I believe AB 1094 is an important and humane step in ultimately preventing these deaths,” he said. “Data may sound like a scientific subject, but, at its core, it leads us to better help and serve all our communities with compassion and empathy.”

Data might not be sexy and logic might be associated with anti-emotion, but gathering this kind of data is absolutely imperative to tracking hate crimes against LGBT people. It’s one thing to know instinctively that we’re hated or in danger but, in order to bring awareness to violence inflicted upon us, we need the crimes against us recorded for what they are. We need the trends and patterns monitored to prevent violence against us in the future.

You would think violent crimes against LGBT people were already examined for motives like homophobia. You would be wrong. “We must have better data to understand the scope of what’s happening in our LGBTQ+ community – especially among the youth – when it comes to violent deaths, including homicide and suicide,” Dr Arambula said. “This information will be a crucial guidepost to prevention efforts and saving lives.”

Responses

Carrie Davis, chief community officer for The Trevor Project, “the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning) young people,” according to their website, praised the bill in a statement to Gay City News. “Better data around the occurrence of these preventable deaths can help us create life-saving programs to protect our most marginalized community members,” Davis said.

Dr. Joaquin Arambula thanked the advocates, supporters, and those who backed the bill, on a Facebook post. “I’m proud that 10 of my #Assembly Bills will be considered by California Governor Newsom to be signed into law. I’m profoundly grateful to the tireless advocates and supporters who have championed these bills to improve the lives of all Californians. #AD31 #CaliforniaForAll.”

The bill has inspired other U.S. states to consider working on something similar. New York State senator Brad Hoylman is considering proposing related legislation in New York. “Data collection and analysis specific to sexual orientation and gender identity are an important guide for policy makers to help combat hate crimes, suicide, and police brutality, which have risen by alarming rates in the LGBTQ population,” Hoylman said in a written statement to Gay City News. “I congratulate my counterparts in the California State Senate and will be exploring companion legislation here in New York.”

AJ Kelly

Contact AJ at [email protected] or view the rest of her work on aj-kelly.tumblr.com

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