Progressive members of Congress appeal to Sessions about trans murders

In an open letter, six members of Congress ask Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate the homicides of seven transgender women of color, all murdered this year. AP Photo, Susan Walsh, File.

Citing the alarming statistics regarding the murder of transgender women over the past three years, six progressive members of the House of Representatives appealed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate the murders.

The letter, sent March 10, says in part, “Transgender women are over four times more likely to be murdered than the general population of all women, and 2017 is on track to be the most deadly year for transgender women, particularly those who are African-American. Your investigation of these murders under federal hate crime laws would help ensure that ‘the Blessings of Liberty’ are secured for all Americans as guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.”

The numbers have risen in the last three years, and 2017 is on track to be even worse. The letter says, “Reported murders of transgender women have grown from 16 in 2014, to 21 in 2015, to 27 in 2016. Only two months into 2017, at least seven transgender women have been murdered.  Furthermore, of all of the murders of transgender people between 2013 and 2015, not a single one was prosecuted or reported as a hate crime, despite evidence in multiple cases that assailants were motivated by the victim’s gender identity.”

Hate crime laws impose tougher penalties on criminals who target their victims because of the victim's race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. So, if a criminal assaults a person because that person is transgender, or is perceived to be, the crime would likely be a hate crime.

The letter says, “It is incumbent upon the Department of Justice to enforce the federal laws that govern such clear examples of anti-transgender violence, especially because most states lack similar hate crime protections for transgender people.” (Emphasis added)

State hate crime laws covers sexual orientation and gender identity in only 17 states and the District of Columbia. In 13 more states, only sexual orientation is covered.

That is why enforcement of the federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act  is so important.

The letter continues, “Transgender Americans face innumerable barriers due to discrimination in education, housing, and employment. No person, regardless of race, sex, gender identity, or religious affiliation should worry if they will be shot outside their home or stabbed while going to work, but for many transgender people in the United States fears of violence are a constant presence in their lives.”

The lawmakers note that transgender people are not always well treated by law enforcement: “Additionally, transgender women are often targeted by law enforcement for a variety of reasons, and as a result are deterred from seeking help when they are targets of violence or harassment. Transgender Americans deserve to have these attacks investigated as hate crimes.”

The letter lists the seven women who have been murdered so far this year: Ciara McElveen, New Orleans, Louisiana; Chyna Gibson, New Orleans, Louisiana; Jaquarrius Holland, Monroe, Louisiana; Keke Collier (Tiara Richmond), Chicago, Illinois; Mesha Caldwell, Canton, Mississippi; Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Jojo Striker, Toledo, Ohio.

The members of Congress who signed the letter are Keith Ellison, Raul Grijalva, Mark Pocan, Barbara Lee, Joseph P. Kennedy, III and Jackie Speier.

Copyright 2017 The Gayly – March 14, 2017 @ 5:20 p.m.