Metro Weekly

Bill introduced in Congress to collect data on LGBTQ violent deaths

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney's LGBT PRIDE Act would track homicides and suicides involving LGBTQ decedents

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, Credit: Wiki Commons

An openly gay congressman has reintroduced a bill that would direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to collect data on LGBTQ violent deaths, whether homicide or suicide.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) introduced the act just a day after the one-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., which killed 49 people, mostly members of the LGBTQ community. The act, known as the LGBT PRIDE (Provide a Requirement to Improve Data Collection Efforts) Act would authorize $25 million to fund the CDC so it can better keep track of such violent deaths.

Currently, National Violent Death Reporting System, which is run by the CDC, collects a minimal amount of information on sexual orientation and gender identity. The NVDRS aggregates data from a variety of local sources, including death certificates, coroner or medical examiner reports, police reports, and crime labs — not all of which will have pertinent information related to sexual orientation or gender identity.

Additionally, any information about suicide or homicide is performed on a voluntary basis, and results are only released in aggregate to protect victims’ privacy. As such, those killed in the Pulse massacre were not reported as anti-LGBTQ murders in any data collection.

“Pulse wasn’t an isolated occurrence — anti-LGBTQ violence is way too common — it happens when a transwoman of color is gunned down in the street, it happens when a young gay person is bullied into depression or takes his own life,” Maloney, a co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, said in a prepared statement. “We have to get more information on where this violence is happening and we have to be more aggressive about doing something to stop it — and this bill is a necessary first step.”

The LGBT PRIDE Act has been endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, the Trevor Project, PFLAG, and GLSEN. The act has also been co-sponsored by 23 other House Democrats, including openly gay Equality Caucus co-chairs Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), and David Cicilline (D-R.I.).

“The LGBTQ community, particularly transgender women of color, continue to face an epidemic of violence,” David Stacy, government affairs director for HRC, said in a statement. “In order to help understand the full scope of this violence, it is critically important we ensure victims’ sexual orientation and gender identity are included as part of the information gathered in the National Violent Death Reporting System. We are thankful for Rep. Maloney’s leadership in working to improve this essential data collection.”

“To not include sexual orientation and gender identity in CDC reporting on violent death victims is to erase the high incidence of fatal violence that LGBTQ people experience,” Elizabeth Raymond Kohn, the interim executive director of PFLAG National, said in a statement.

“This legislation will play a critical role helping us to better understand and help end LGBTQ youth suicide,” added Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of the Trevor Project. “Current;y no one is able to answer the question of how many LGBTQ individuals die by suicide every year. This is a monumental gap in our knowledge of suicide and keeps us from most effectively targeting prevention and intervention efforts. The saying often goes ‘if you’re not counted then you don’t count,’ and it’s time to finally acknowledge the importance of LGBTQ lives and get the data to help save those lives.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com