October 22, 2015 at 5:39 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Pelosi, White House address spike in transgender murders
Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Party, United States House of Representatives, U.S. Congress, California, gay news, Washington Blade

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) addressed the spike in transgender violence. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) addressed on Thursday the record number of transgender murders this year, saying the violence is “heartbreaking” and “it’s important to listen to the people most affected by it.”

Pelosi made the remarks during her weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol in response to a question from the Washington Blade on what should be done about the spike in anti-trans violence following the recent death of Zella Ziona, whose murder many are counting as the 21st transgender murder in 2015.

“We can pass a law, we can help to break down barriers in people’s minds,” Pelosi said. “Now we have to get to their hearts, but it is heartbreaking to hear of violence against anyone, but the vulnerability of our transgender community.”

The California Democrat referenced the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which she said passed over objections when she was speaker in 2009 with a prohibition against bias-motivated violence based on gender identity.

“At that time, there had been some resistance — I don’t know where — but people would say to me, ‘You can pass this hate crimes bill in a second if you didn’t include transgender,'” Pelosi said. “And I said, ‘Well, I’m never going to pass it in a million years if we don’t include transgender because it’s important for it to be inclusive, and transgender people are probably the most in need of a hate crimes bill.'”

It should be noted Pelosi in 2007 made a different decision with the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, bringing to the floor a bill without gender identity protections when former Rep. Barney Frank said only a gay-only version of the legislation would pass the House. Frank and Pelosi later committed to trans-inclusive legislation.

Pelosi said she recently had meetings with the LGBT community — one in Washington State, one in San Francisco — on a number of issues and took note of the introduction in July of the Equality Act, legislation she co-sponsors that would amend federal civil rights laws to include LGBT people.

“We want to listen specifically to the transgender community to hear what some of their suggestions might be as we go forward, as we see this sadness,” Pelosi said. “But we always want to listen to the people who are most affected by it.”

Making the point legislation “macro-ly” should be inclusive, Pelosi added to enforce the law “we have to listen to the community, because they’re, sadly, on the front line of this.”

White House Deputy Principal Press Secretary Eric Schultz echoed the dismay over the recent transgender killings when asked by the Washington Blade about whether the spike in transgender murders amounts to a national crisis.

“I saw the heart-wrenching report out of Baltimore that you mentioned, and I think it’s fair to say that the thoughts and prayers of those of us at the White House are with the family,” Schultz said.

But Schultz said he doesn’t have any new initiative to unveil that would confront the spike in violence at a national level.

“I don’t have sort of new legislative or official reviews to announce today,” Schultz said. “Obviously, the president’s record on this is well-known.”

The officials made the comments one day after Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) made a public a letter seeking answers from the Justice Department and the FBI on reporting and monitoring of transgender murders and the extent to which the federal government is working with local authorities on the issue.

Pelosi endorsed the letter in a response to a follow-up question, saying in response to whether she thinks its contents are a good idea, “Sure. Always. Yes.”

Schultz said he couldn’t respond to the letter directly because he’s not aware of it, but added Obama broadly believes making information public is a good thing.

“I will say generally speaking the president has been very strong in his advocacy in increased transparency and increased data,” Schultz said. “I know that’s something we worked very hard on both at the Justice Department in terms of the law enforcement arena, but also at other areas of the administration. So, generally speaking, the president believes the more information, the better.”

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

  • Only those that hate for hates sake can work so hard to deny legal protections to members of the transgender community when trans folk and especially trans women of colour are the most discriminated against per capita demographic in this country. There is no valid excuse, no reason at all to allow the violence focused on the transgender community to continue unchecked.

  • The DC Council and its Judiciary/Public Safety Committee is failing to provide adequate oversight of MPD regarding anti-LGBT hate crimes in DC. That includes complete tracking of hate crime cases and case closure availability to the public, as well as restoring GLLU to its LGBT Community Policing function.

    Covering up hate crimes to make the mayor and police chief look good is unacceptable corruption.
    “We need to do a better job of tracking and reporting hate crime and “color of law” violations to fully understand what is happening in our communities and how to stop it. There are jurisdictions that fail to report hate crime statistics. Others claim there were no hate crimes in their community—a fact that would be welcome if true. We must continue to impress upon our state and local counterparts in every jurisdiction the need to track and report hate crime and to do so accurately. It is not something we can ignore or sweep under the rug.”
    James B. Comey, FBI Director
    (Statement Before the House Judiciary Committee, October 22, 2015)

  • I will not hold her past against her. She has come around and that counts. Our lives matter

  • “We can pass a law, we can help to break down barriers in people’s minds,”

    Then Please Breakdown the Christian, and GOP Minds, that WE CHOOSE to be Transgender. The Catholic Church is the Leader of this fallacy with their MIS-Information Started with the Last Pope Benedict, listening to a Retired Trans Hating (Documented) Psychologist, Paul McHugh, and the Pope sought no other Information, and is the Basis for the Churches description of US. The new Pope Francis still following this line of thought compounds the problem with his arrogant and insulting calling US “Nuclear Weapons” and adding US to his Encyclical on Climate Change. There He makes US sinners if WE do anything to our bodies to match our BRAINS, calling US an ABOMINATION to GOD if we do and it’s a Grievous SIN?? The information from a Trans Hater is still Live and well yet with all the current Transgender Studies none of this is shared to, or Read by the GOP or Christians. That Paul McHugh has been rebuked by his PEERS, and many others as, Backwards and his information and theories Failed, when he created these Mis-Informations back in the 1970’s. Please study all Pertinent information and Studies on US as existing today. We have a Birth Anomaly where in Gestation we have a BRAIN programmed for the opposite Gender we were Assigned at birth. The Delivery person gendered (Wrong Way) US by what was between our legs.

    FYI: GENDER is between your EARS, SEX is between your LEGS.

    Simple connection, three largest Catholic and Christian Countries in the World. Brazil with 95 ++ Trans Killed to date, Mexico with 55++ Trans Killed to date. and the USA with 27 Trans Killed to date. All MACHO, and MANLY Countries. It’s as if those Killers were doing a Favour for the Church. Please read how they Kill US in the most Horrific ways. EDUCATION for the PUBLIC is one way to HELP US. NOT MORE LAWS, REAL HONEST INFORMATION !

  • We are at 27 Trans murders in the United States. If you wish to request a complete list. Please contact Solano Serenity Center on facebook. To add to this 20 Suicides this year as well. Sad.

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