California Passes Bill to Track Violent Deaths of LGBTQ People

The California State Legislature has approved a bill that would collect the gender identity and sexual orientation of LGBTQ homicide and suicide victims.
David Monniaux/ Commons

The California State Legislature has approved a bill that would kickstart a pilot program to better track the gender identity and sexual orientation of victims of fatal violence.

Under AB 1094, or the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Data Collection Pilot Project, the California Department of Public Health is launching a three-year pilot program that would teach coroners and medical examiners how to identify and compile information about a victim’s sexual orientation and gender identity in cases of violent death, including suicides and homicides. The bill is heading to California Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk.

“There is a lack of understanding about the relationship between risk of violent death, such as suicide or homicide, and an individual’s sexual orientation and gender identity,” reads the bill’s text. “This is because, unlike veteran status or ethnicity, the sexual orientation and gender identity of deceased individuals are only captured in special circumstances. By training coroners and medical examiners how to gather mortality data with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity, researchers and policymakers can begin to learn who the most vulnerable in the LGBTQ community are and allocate resources that will reduce the number of preventable deaths.”

Democrat Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula introduced the bill in February, and it was carried in the State Senate by Democrat Susan Eggman. Arambula believes this data could combat anti-LGBTQ violence.

“I believe AB 1094 is an important and humane step in ultimately preventing these deaths,” Arambula said in a written statement in February. “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.”

The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ suicide prevention organization, is also showing support for the legislation and stressed that obtaining the data could help advocates develop new solutions for fighting homophobic and transphobic attacks.

”Recognizing LGBTQ identity matters — in life and in death,” Carrie Davis, chief community officer for the Trevor Project, said in a written statement to Gay City News. “Particular members of our LGBTQ community, such as transgender women and queer young people of color, face disproportionate rates of violence and suicide. Better data around the occurrence of these preventable deaths can help us create life-saving programs to protect our most marginalized community members.”

In a Facebook post, Arambula applauded lawmakers for their support, noting that he hopes that Governor Newsom will sign the bill into law.

New York State Senator Brad Hoylman said he is considering similar 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.”

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. 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, according to the CDC.

In May, authorities in Massachusetts determined that Mikayla Miller, a 16-year-old LGBTQ girl, died of suicide after her body was found in the woods. Days before the victim’s death, a friend told a school guidance counselor that Miller appeared severely depressed and had panic attacks, reports NBC Boston. Miller’s family claims authorities poorly handled the case, and they continue to dispute the medical examiner’s results.

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