November 20, 2012 at 11:42 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Labor Sec’y calls for reflection on anti-trans violence

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis issued a statement on Tuesday calling the Transgender Day of Remembrance an occasion for Americans to bear in mind transgender people who’ve lost their lives as the result of violence.

The complete statement follows:

“The Transgender Day of Remembrance will be commemorated in cities and countries around the world today, reflecting on those who have died as a result of fear, hate and transphobia.

“I stand proudly today — and every day — as an ally to the transgender community and to every person and family impacted by anti-transgender bullying and violence. Transgender people are part of the diversity that America celebrates today and they, like every American, deserve to live without fear of prejudice or violence.

“What Gwendolyn Ann Smith began as an online project in 1998 to memorialize Rita Hester’s murder has today evolved to include hundreds of vigils and events in workplaces, churches and community centers around the world. I hope that this year’s commemoration will serve as an opportunity to shine a brighter light on both progress made and the challenges ahead.”

Hilda Solis, Department of Labor, gay news, Washington Blade

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis (Department of Labor photo public domain)

The Transgender Day of Remembrance, which occurs annually on Nov. 20, was founded in 1998 by transgender activist Gwendolyn Ann Smith to memorialize the murder of Rita Hester in Allston, Mass. At the time of Hester’s murder, a candlelight vigil was held in which about 250 people participated.

Solis issues the statement at a time when many LGBT advocates say her department could do more on transgender workplace protections. Organizations such Freedom to Work are calling on her to issue guidance saying an existing executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of gender also protects transgender workers.

Such guidance would bring the Labor Department into alignment with an April ruling from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that said existing federal law protecting workers from gender discrimination — Title VII of the Civil Rights Act — also protects transgender workers.

The Obama administration also observed the Transgender Day of Remembrance by hosting a meeting at the White House with transgender community advocates. Among those in attendance were John Berry, who’s gay and director of the Office of Personnel Management; Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality; and Alison Gill, government affairs director for the Trevor Project.

White House LGBT liaison Gautam Raghavan, who was also in attendance, wrote a blog posting on the meeting that can be read here.

“Far too often, we hear shocking and tragic stories about transgender people who have been assaulted and even killed because of their gender identity or expression,” Raghavan writes. “The Obama Administration is committed to preventing violence against all people, including all members of the LGBT community, and this meeting was an important opportunity to explore ways to make our communities and neighborhoods safer.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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