Task Force Applauds Implementation of New Violence Against Women Act LGBT Non-Discrimination Provisions

This week, the U.S. Department of Justice released “Frequently Asked Questions” about the new LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination provisions in the Violence Against Women Act. The Task Force was instrumental in getting these protections written in to law – the first federal law to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Task Force then led a coalition of organizations to submit comprehensive recommendations to the Department of Justice on how to effectively implement the recommendations.

The 11-page FAQ document outlines the requirements for grantees under the law. In general, the FAQs are very strong and reflect many of the recommendations the Task Force and our coalition partners put forth last year. Some of the highlights are:

  • If a grantee receives any amount of funding from the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, all activities of that provider are covered by the non-discrimination mandate, including activities that aren’t related to or funded by the Department of Justice.
  • Sex-segregated and sex-specific programming is generally prohibited, unless the programming is “necessary to the essential operation of the program.” Even then, grantees must be able to justify why and how they think that the programming is essential.
  • In sex-segregated and sex-specific programming, grantees are required to recognize the self-identified gender of the victim/survivor. This means that transgender people will have equal access to a wide range of programs funded by the Department of Justice, and a transgender person can’t be turned away or treated differently just because another client complains.
  • If sex-segregated and sex-specific programming is offered, services that are comparable in terms of quality, duration, safety, amenities, and other factors.

Also of note, the FAQ identifies clear procedures for filing a complaint, and allowing third parties (like volunteer legal service providers, for example) to file complaints on behalf of a client that experienced discrimination.

Here is what our Executive Director, Rea Carey, had to say about the FAQs that came out this week:

We are thrilled that the Department of Justice has taken such a clear stance implementing the Violence Against Women Act’s LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination protections. For the first time in our history, the federal government is sending the message to programs it funds that tax dollars do not belong in the hands of those that discriminate against the LGBT community.  Working with the Department of Justice to flesh out these issues has been a pleasure, and we look forward to seeing the Office of Violence against Women issue federal regulations implementing the non-discrimination provisions later this year.

This is a huge step forward for the LGBT community. For the first time, we are seeing full and effective implementation of a federal law that explicitly bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and the implementation looks a lot like the recommendations the Task Force and our coalition partners sent to the Department of Justice last year.  We look forward to the next step in the process, which is federal regulations that impose these and other requirements with the full force and effect of federal law.