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For Fanning, a front-row seat to a changing military

Army secretary reflects on LGBT inclusion in armed forces

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Army Secretary Eric Fanning (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Army Secretary Eric Fanning, who has served in civilian leadership at each of the U.S. military’s branches, has seen major strides in advancements for LGBT inclusion in the armed forces.

Fanning, 48, who’s gay, reflected on the major changes — which include “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, extension of partner benefits to service members with same-sex spouses, non-discrimination provisions for LGBT troops and, most recently, implementation of transgender military service — in an interview with the Washington Blade on Tuesday in his office at the Pentagon.

“It’s been very rewarding for me personally, but far more important, I think, it’s been great for the U.S. military,” Fanning said. “Opening up service to people who haven’t had the opportunities, but meet the requirements, means that we can recruit from a broader pool of talent and get the best our country has to offer.”

The changes took place over the course of eight years of the Obama administration. Although Fanning said President Obama was responsible for moving things forward, especially “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, the Army secretary cited other factors.

“I think society has evolved and changed as well,” Fanning said. “There’s an increased understanding of these issues outside of the community and an increased awareness that there are and always have been LGBT people in uniform in all the services.”

Fanning embodies those changes in the armed forces because of the nature of his appointment and confirmation as Army secretary: He’s the first openly gay person confirmed by the U.S. Senate to head a military service.

“It clearly is a milestone in many ways and means a lot to a lot of people, and I appreciate that more each time I’m given a new job because there’s more visibility, and then more people reaching out to me,” Fanning said.

Fanning said part of him “just wants to reflect on the qualifications and what I do in the job, and do I do a good job,” but he acknowledged the distinction has value.

“I increasingly reflect on my own experience when I was younger and working in the Department of Defense and didn’t really see a way forward for me because I didn’t see people like me in positions of leadership,” Fanning said. “So, I think in some ways, it’s an important milestone for a lot of people particularly in the military, even civilians who work around the military.”

Prior to his confirmation as Army secretary in May, Fanning held high-level civilian positions at the Pentagon and national defense related organizations throughout the Obama administration, including the posts of Air Force under secretary and deputy under secretary at the Navy. Fanning was chief of staff to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and served as acting Army secretary, but had to relinquish the job briefly to win confirmation.

Popular in the LGBT community — including among many who have photos with the Army secretary posted to their social media accounts — Fanning said he’s aware of his fan base, which he said seems to have grown with each step of his career as he moved from job to job.

“I always think I’m prepared and then the wave comes when you’re nominated, when you’re confirmed. when you’re sworn in,” Fanning said. “There’s always something that’s a hook that gets a little bit of attention.”

Keeping him grounded, Fanning said, is his personal life. Having lived in the same house throughout the Obama administration, Fanning said he still has to “walk the dog and get my dry cleaning and just live in the neighborhood like I did before all this happened.”

Blake Dremann, the new president of the LGBT military group SPARTA, said Fanning’s tenure in the Obama administration has helped break down barriers at a time of greater LGBT inclusion in the armed forces.

“Secretary Fanning has been an invaluable example of how the ability to do the job overcomes any preconceived notions anyone has regarding a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” Dremann said. “His leadership and visibility has had a positive impact on both the soldiers in the field and within the LGBT community.”

Just weeks after his confirmation as Army secretary, Carter announced the latest achievement for LGBT inclusion in the armed forces: the long-sought end of medical regulations barring transgender service in the U.S. armed forces “effective immediately.”

Fanning, who in a 2013 interview with the Washington Blade became the first senior defense official to endorse openly transgender service, said he’s “very involved” in implementing the change, but noted the impetus for lifting the ban came without his help.

“The spark occurred before I could raise it with the secretary,” Fanning said. “It was our literally fourth or fifth day of his tenure, we’re in Afghanistan and sort of all-call with troops in Afghanistan. He gets the question on transgender service in an austere environment and we hadn’t discussed it, he hadn’t been prepped like we prep for most questions. He answered it in his own words, and that got the ball rolling.”

On the day the end to the transgender ban was announced, the Associated Press reported senior military leadership — including Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley — expressed concern and wanted more time to implement the change. Carter made the announcement alone in the Pentagon briefing room without Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford by his side.

Fanning said he wouldn’t characterize uniformed leaders as being opposed to transgender military service, but instead as thinking “we need a little bit more time to work through this.”

“There are medical issues,” Fanning said. “We need to make sure we’re ready for those. And we have training in place, but the secretary was pretty clear about wanting to get this done and what his timeline was. And it’s been my experience that everyone is working through this in a very professional, thoughtful way.”

Despite the desire for more time, Fanning said military leadership is satisfied with the situation and he sees no reason the implementation of transgender service would be delayed.

Upon announcing the end to the ban, Carter said the next goal is Oct. 1 when transition-related care would be covered in the military health system and a training handbook to military commanders would be distributed. Beginning July 1, openly transgender people are able to accede into the armed forces.

As for U.S. soldiers on the ground, Fanning said he’s seen no issue with advancements of LGBT inclusion, which he attributed to the “incredibly professional” force.

“These issues are never raised,” Fanning said. “I spend as much time with soldiers as I can, as far into the field as I can get. And I can’t think of one time any of these issues has been raised or asked. It’s just simply not a priority, which to me is an indication of how far we’ve come, how well implementation is taking place.”

Fanning talks Olympics, Orlando shooting

Eric Fanning (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Army Secretary Eric Fanning (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Fanning spoke to the Blade on the heels of taking part in the U.S. delegation for the closing ceremony of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro along with Jason Collins, the first openly gay person to play for a National Basketball Association team.

Pointing out 12 members of Team USA were U.S. soldiers — and two of them medaled — Fanning said the message he took with him as part of the delegation was “the incredible strength, diversity and range of capabilities that you can find in the United States Army.”

“Second Lt. [Sam] Kendricks, he wins a bronze medal in pole-vaulting, races off to Europe for a couple more competitions and next month has to report for more basic training,” Fanning said. “So we try to accommodate them to compete at this world-class level, but they have to be soldiers and meet those requirements first, and they are just 12 examples of the one million people in uniform and different amazing backgrounds, skills and capabilities that they bring to this institution.”

In response to the Orlando shooting in June at a gay nightclub that left 49 people dead and 53 wounded, Fanning said he reacted with “profound shock and sadness,” recalling that among the victims were two soldiers: A reservist and a guardsman from Puerto Rico.

“I think it was maybe particularly in Washington and other communities because we were celebrating our Pride that same weekend, and so to have to come out of such a joyous Saturday here in D.C. and to wake up to that news, it was shocking for everyone,” Fanning said.

The tragedy, Fanning said, was a reason why he chose to accept an invitation to serve as grand marshal in the San Diego Pride parade alongside his boyfriend, Ben.

“It’s the first Pride parade where troops were allowed to wear their uniforms, so there’s great history there with military and the LGBT movement,” Fanning said. “And I was just thinking I want to do something else in response to Orlando and so we accepted that invitation. It had just been sitting on the desk a while.”

The shooter, Omar Mateen, perpetuated the act after pledging allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq & Syria, which is known for conducting barbaric acts against LGBT people. Just last week, ISIS militants reportedly threw four men perceived as gay off of a building in Mosul, Iraq, after accusing them of “homosexuality and sodomy.”

“ISIL provides countless reasons why we should defeat them, which we will,” Fanning said. “And yes, their barbaric acts against the LGBT community — and countless other targets — are certainly among them.”

Asked about the presidential election, Fanning said he wouldn’t comment on remarks or positions of the candidates running for the White House.

“We have a long, proud tradition in this department of not getting involved in political issues, and so I’m really not going to comment on the race other than to say I’ll be happy when it’s over,” Fanning said.

However, in response to a question about whether military leaders would carry out a directive from a President Donald Trump to engage in waterboarding or other methods of torture in contravention of the Geneva Conventions, Fanning said he’s confident service members would follow the U.S. Constitution.

“They take their oath to the Constitution incredibly seriously,” Fanning said. “Everybody when they’re brought into the service, civilian or uniform, when they’re promoted, we take an oath at each of those steps, and it’s an oath to the Constitution. And so, I have no problem imagining senior leadership maintaining that oath to the Constitution.”

On whether Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server threatened national security, Fanning said he had no comment, but added, “I would say I prefer to use the phone.”

Matt Thorn, executive director of the LGBT military group OutServe-SLDN, said Fanning’s tenure as Army secretary is significant not just because he’s the first openly gay Army secretary, but also because he’s the best person for the job.

“After his confirmation he immediately began jetting around the world to visit with, talk with and hear from our soldiers so that he can meet their needs, be their advocate and make sure that our Army is operating at its fullest potential,” Thorn said. “He is and will be remembered as a great Secretary of the Army because of the unique set of values and knowledge that he brings to the job and, yes, he will be remembered as our first gay service secretary as well.”

What’s next for the armed forces in the aftermath of strides for LGBT inclusion? Fanning said he’s unsure, but the U.S. military will continue to seek to welcome all who are willing and able to serve.

“This is a path that we’ve been on for many years to continually open service: To people who meet the requirements and just want to be a part of this very important mission in protecting their country,” Fanning said. “And the military does this in many cases very well integrating after World War II, we pay women the same amount we pay men today, you can’t find that elsewhere. And so, you keep opening it up to people who want to serve who can meet the requirements we set out.”

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Mixed reviews from transgender Republicans on Caitlyn Jenner’s run

Remarks on kids in sport a sore point among LGBTQ advocacy groups

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Caitlyn Jenner was quickly repudiated by LGBTQ advocates after she entered California’s recall election as a gubernatorial candidate — and her fellow transgender Republicans are mixed over whether or not to back her up.

Transgender Republicans are few in number, but some are in high-profile positions and have been working with their party to change its approach and drop its attacks on transgender people, whether it be in the military, public bathrooms, or school sports.

Jordan Evans, a Charlton, Mass.-based transgender Republican who unsuccessfully last year ran to become a Massachusetts Republican State Committee Woman, told the Washington Blade she had high hopes for Jenner as a fellow transgender candidate, but they were quickly dashed after her campaign launched.

“My feelings changed quickly after Caitlyn made it clear that she was less interested in using this opportunity to present the Republican Party and conservative movements with an accessible and high-profile introduction to the trans community and simply wanted to be a trans woman who espoused the same destructive approaches that we just so happen to be seeing all over the country,” Evans said.

Evans said the high hopes she had were based on the transgender advocacy she said Jenner was doing behind the scenes and the potential for two prominent LGBTQ Republicans to run for governor in California. After all, Jenner may soon be joined in the race by Richard Grenell, who was U.S. ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence before becoming the face of LGBTQ outreach for Trump’s failed re-election.

But Jenner’s approach to the gubernatorial recall in California, Evans said, is “putting trans youth at risk for a campaign that isn’t even transformative for Republicans during this volatile time.”

“Even her current messaging is superficial and does nothing to help dispel claims that she’s unqualified,” Evans said. “The only positive thing that I’ve seen come from this is conservative mainstream media using her correct pronouns, but that is not worth the damage that she’s inflicting.”

Much of the disappointment over Jenner’s campaign is the result of her essentially throwing transgender kids under the bus as part of her campaign at a time when state legislatures are advancing legislation against them, including the bills that would essentially bar transgender girls from participating in school sports.

Jenner, declining to push back on these measures and assert transgender kids have a place in sports, instead essentially endorsed the bills shortly after she announced her candidacy.

“If you’re born as a biological boy, you shouldn’t be allowed to compete in girls’ sports,” Jenner told TMZ, which asked her about the hot-button issue during a Sunday morning coffee run.

Jenner dug deeper into MAGA-world at the expense of solidarity with the transgender community. Last week, Jenner retweeted Jenna Ellis, who has a notoriously anti-LGBTQ background and was criticized just last year for refusing to use the personal pronouns of Rachel Levine, who’s now assistant secretary of health and the first openly transgender presidential appointee to win Senate confirmation.

Jennifer Williams, a New Jersey-based transgender Republican who unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the New Jersey General Assembly last year, said via email Jenner “did much good for several years by educating millions of people around the world about transgender folks,” but won’t countenance the candidate’s remarks on transgender kids in sports.

“In regard to her current run for California governor, her recent comments regarding transgender youth playing sports are confusing,” Williams said. “Just last year, she said that she supported transgender female athletes. Caitlyn should consult with tennis great Billie Jean King, soccer star Megan Rapinoe or WNBA legend Candace Parker on the subject of transgender athletes in women’s sports, as they are very well versed on the matter.”

At a time when state legislatures are pushing through legislation targeting transgender youth, restricting their access to sports and transition-related care, Jenner’s refusal to repudiate those measures has become a focal point for opposition to her candidacy from LGBTQ advocacy groups, who say she’s “out of touch” (although none were supporting her even before she made those comments).

The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which supports LGBTQ political candidates and public officials, has signaled it wants nothing to do with Jenner.

Sean Meloy, vice president of political programs for LGBTQ Victory Fund, said Jenner hasn’t applied for an endorsement from the Victory Fund “and she shouldn’t bother to.”

“Her opposition to full trans inclusion – particularly for trans kids in sports – makes her ineligible for the endorsement,” Meloy said. “There are many great trans candidates running this cycle who are champions for equality.”

To be sure, Jenner used her celebrity status as a former reality TV star and Olympic champion on behalf of transgender lobbyists, urging donations to groups like the National Center for Transgender Equality and going to Capitol Hill to lobby Republicans on transgender issues. Jenner has also given money for transgender kids to attend college, giving transgender advocate Blossom Brown a check for $20,000 on “The Ellen Show” in 2015.

Blaire White, a transgender conservative and YouTube personality, drew on these examples of Jenner helping transgender youth in a video earlier this month and said the two once had dinner together, but wasn’t yet ready to make a endorsement.

“I will say that until she lays out all of her policy positions and until she’s more on record in long form really talking about what she wants to do for the state of California, I can’t say for sure I would vote for her and would not vote for her,” White concluded in the video. “What I can say is: I’m interested. And also, being under Gavin Newson’s governorship, I would literally vote for a triple-amputee frog over Gavin Newsom, so she already has that going for her.”

Jenner’s campaign couldn’t be reached for comment for this article on the repudiation of her campaign from LGBTQ advocacy groups.

Gina Roberts, who’s the first transgender Republican elected to public office in California and a member of the San Diego GOP Central Committee, said she’s neutral for the time being as an elected Republican Party leader, but nonetheless had good things to say about Jenner’s candidacy.

“I think it’s awesome,” Roberts said. “It’s kind of indicative of how cool the Republican Party in California is because nobody really cares or it makes any difference. I mean, I was the first elected GOP transgender person in California and I think we’re ready for No. 2.”

Asked whether Jenner’s comments about allowing transgender kids in sports was troubling, Roberts said that wasn’t the case because she has her own reservations.

“I have pretty much the same opinion because … there’s so many nuances in that,” Roberts said. “If somebody transitions after they’ve gone through puberty, there is a big difference, especially in high school. If they transition beforehand, it’s not a big deal.”

A gun enthusiast and supporter of gun owner’s rights, Roberts said she competes in women’s events in shooting sports, but there’s a difference because she doesn’t “really have any advantages all those young, small ladies can pull a lot faster than I do and shoot faster than I do.”

Roberts concluded she’ll personally make a decision about whom she’ll support in the California recall election after Grenell announces whether or not he’ll enter the race, but can’t say anything until the San Diego GOP Central Committee issues an endorsement.

“He’s a good friend of mine, too,” Roberts said. “I know both of them. I think they’d both be certainly better than Gavin Newsom, I have to stay neutral until the county party decides who they’re going to endorse. I will support somebody or another in the endorsement process, but I can’t publicly announce it.”

Although LGBTQ groups want nothing to do with her campaign, Jenner’s approach has garnered the attention of prominent conservatives, who are taking her seriously as a candidate. One of Jenner’s first interviews was on Fox News’ Sean Hannity, a Trump ally with considerable sway among his viewers. Hannity was able to find common ground with Jenner, including agreement on seeing California wildfires as a problem with forest management as opposed to climate change.

Kayleigh McEnany, who served as White House press secretary in Trump’s final year in the White House and defended in the media his efforts to challenge his 2020 election loss in court, signaled her openness to Jenner’s candidacy after the Hannity interview.

“I really enjoyed watching @Caitlyn_Jenner’s interview with @seanhannity,” McEnany tweeted. “I found Caitlyn to be well-informed, sincere, and laser-focused on undoing the socialist, radical, a-scientific policies of Biden & the left. Very good.”

In theory, that support combined with Jenner’s visibility might be enough to propel Jenner to victory. In the recall election, California will answer two questions, whether California Gov. Gavin Newsom should be recalled, and if so, which candidate should replace him. The contender with the plurality of votes would win the election, even if that’s less than a majority vote, and become the next governor. There isn’t a run-off if no candidate fails to obtain a majority.

With Jenner’s name recognition as a celebrity, that achievement could be in her reach. After all, Arnold Schwarzenegger won the 2004 recall election in California as a Republican based on his celebrity status, and ended up becoming a popular governor.

But the modest inroads Jenner has made with the acceptance of conservatives and potential to win isn’t enough for other transgender Republicans.

Evans, for example, said Jenner’s candidacy is not only a disappointment, but threatening the potential candidacies of transgender hopefuls in the future.

“It’s difficult to be in electoral politics, and that’s even more true when you’re a member of a marginalized community,” Evans said. “Caitlyn’s behavior is making it even more challenging for the trans community to be visible in a field where we desperately need to be seen. She’s casting a tall shadow on our ability to have a voice and is giving credibility to lawmakers and local leaders simply unwilling to view us with decency and respect.”

Williams said Jenner should avoid talking about transgender issues over the course of her gubernatorial run “and instead focus on the hard, critical policy issues facing California.”

“It is a state in crisis and she has to run a very serious campaign and not rely on her celebrity or LGBTQ status to win over voters’ hearts and minds — just like all other LGBTQ candidates around the country need to do when they run for public office,” Williams said.

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100th anniversary celebration of Dupont Circle fountain set for May 17

GWU student creates tribute video

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The iconic Dupont Circle fountain turns 100 this month. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

LGBTQ residents and longtime visitors to D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood are expected to be among the participants in the 100th anniversary celebration of the installation of the Dupont Circle fountain scheduled to be held at the circle on Monday, May 17.

Aaron DeNu, president of Dupont Festival, a nonprofit arts and cultural programming group that’s organizing the celebration, says it will take place from noon to at least sunset inside Dupont Circle.

The celebration will take place one week after the May 10 release of a YouTube video, “How Dupont Circle Evolved as a Hub for LGBTQ+ Life in the District,” produced by George Washington University student Dante Schulz. Schulz is the video editor for the G.W. student newspaper The Hatchet.

Among those appearing in the documentary video are veteran LGBTQ rights activists Deacon Maccubbin and his husband Jim Bennett, who owned and operated the Dupont Circle LGBTQ bookstore Lambda Rising beginning in the 1970s, which is credited with contributing to Dupont Circle’s reputation as the epicenter of D.C.’s LGBTQ community for many years.

Also appearing in the video is longtime D.C. gay activist and Dupont Circle area resident Craig Howell, a former president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance.

“At this point in time due to COVID restrictions we’re not going to be doing any particular formal gathering of folks,” DeNu told the Washington Blade in describing the May 17 celebration. “But we’ll have a soundtrack that’s playing throughout the day from that original ceremony – the same songs they used in the original dedication a hundred years ago,” he said.

DeNu said the event will also feature “historic imagery” related to Dupont Circle and the people who have gathered there over the years.

“So, we’re really just inviting people to come and have lunch, stop by the park after work, and just stop and reflect on 100 years of Dupont Circle fountain, take a look at the imagery and see some old friends and hopefully stop by and see the Dupont businesses that are around the area,” DeNu said.

The LGBTQ video produced by Dante Schultz can be accessed here.

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Trans woman sues D.C. Jail for placing her in men’s unit

Lawsuit charges city with exposing inmates to ‘risk of sexual violence’

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Sunday Hinton (Photo courtesy of the American Civil Liberties Union of D.C.)

The American Civil Liberties Union of D.C. and the D.C. Public Defender Service filed a class action lawsuit on May 11 on behalf of a transgender woman being held in the D.C. Jail on grounds that the city violated its own Human Rights Act and the woman’s constitutional rights by placing her in the men’s housing facility at the jail.

The lawsuit charges that D.C. Department of Corrections officials violated local and federal law by placing D.C. resident Sunday Hinton in the men’s unit at the D.C. Jail against her wishes without following a longstanding DOC policy of bringing the decision of where she should be placed before the DOC’s Transgender Housing Committee.

The committee, which includes members of the public, including transgender members, makes recommendations on whether a transgender inmate should be placed in either the men’s or the women’s housing unit based on their gender identity along with other considerations, including whether a trans inmate’s safety could be at risk. Under the policy, DOC officials must give strong consideration to the recommendations of the committee.

The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, says the committee has not met or acted on any trans-related jail housing matter since January 2020.

It says Hinton was taken to the D.C. Jail on April 26 after a judge ordered her held following an arrest for an alleged unarmed burglary in which she attempted to take $20.

It notes that the Department of Corrections has a “default” policy of placing transgender inmates in either the male or female housing unit at the D.C. Jail and other city detention holding facilities based on the inmate’s “anatomy.” If a female transgender inmate is anatomically male, the inmate – barring other mitigating circumstances – is placed in the male housing facility under the default policy. Similarly, a male transgender inmate who is anatomically female is placed by default in the women’s housing unit under the DOC policy.

“DOC’s policy of focusing on anatomy rather than gender identity is both discriminatory and dangerous,” the ACLU says in a statement released on the day it filed the lawsuit on Hinton’s behalf. “It forces trans individuals, particularly trans women, to choose between a heightened risk of sexual violence and a near-certain mental health crisis,” ACLU attorney Megan Yan said in the statement.

Yan was referring to yet another DOC policy that sometimes gives a transgender inmate placed in a housing unit contrary to their gender identity the option of being placed in “protective custody,” which the lawsuit calls another name for solitary confinement. The ACLU and the Public Defender Service have said solitary confinement in prisons is known to result in serious psychological harm to inmates placed in such confinement.

“Because DOC’s unconstitutional policy exposes every transgender individual in its custody to discrimination, degradation, and risk of sexual violence, Ms. Hinton seeks, on behalf of a class of similarly situated individuals, a court order that strikes down DOC’s unlawful focus on anatomy as the touchstone for its housing decisions regarding transgender individuals,” the lawsuit states.

It further calls on the DOC to use “gender identity, not anatomy, as the default basis for housing assignments” for transgender inmates and to provide all trans individuals a prompt hearing by the DOC Transgender Housing Committee.

It calls for the DOC to be required to implement the recommendations of the Housing Committee “so that each person is housed as safely as possible and without discrimination.”

In addition to the lawsuit, Hinton’s attorneys filed an application for a temporary restraining order to immediately require the DOC to transfer Hinton to the D.C. Jail’s women’s housing facility. The attorneys also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the DOC from using a transgender person’s anatomy as the default or sole criteria in making housing assignments at the jail.

In response to a request from the Washington Blade, DOC spokesperson Dr. Keena Blackmon sent the Blade a DOC statement responding to the lawsuit.

“The Department of Corrections is dedicated to the safety and security of all residents in its care and custody,” the statement says. “DOC is committed to following its policies and procedures relating to housing transgender residents,” it says. “Ms. Hinton recently arrived in DOC custody and, per the agency’s COVID-19 protocols, was placed into single-occupancy quarantine for 14 days.”

The statement adds, “Once that quarantine ends, Ms. Hinton will go before the Transgender Housing Committee to determine her housing based on safety needs, housing availability, and gender identity. D.C. DOC is sensitive to Ms. Hinton’s concerns and will continue to ensure that its residents’ needs are met.”

DOC spokesperson Blackmon didn’t immediately respond to a follow-up question from the Blade asking why the Transgender Housing Committee has not met for over a year, which the ACLU has said resulted in all transgender female inmates being placed in the male housing facility.

Blackmon also couldn’t immediately be reached for a second follow-up question asking for DOC’s response to the lawsuit’s claim that DOC officials told Hinton’s lawyers that she was being placed in the men’s housing facility because she was anatomically male.

The lawsuit says the DOC default policy of placing Hinton in the jail’s male housing unit violates the D.C. Human Rights Act, which bans discrimination based on gender identity. The act has been interpreted to mean private businesses or the city government cannot prevent a transgender person from using facilities such as bathrooms or locker rooms that are in accordance with their gender identity.

D.C. Superior Court records show that Hinton has been arrested a total of 24 times in D.C. between 2006 and 2018. All except three of those arrests are listed as misdemeanor offenses, with just three listed as alleged felony offenses. One of the arrests is listed as a traffic offense.

In nearly all of the prior arrests, the court records identify Hinton by her birth first name, with her last name of Hinton used in all of the arrest records.

The burglary offense for which Hinton was charged on April 26 of this year and for which she is currently being held the D.C. Jail would  normally not result in a defendant being held in jail while awaiting trial. The fact that Hinton is being held rather than released pending trial suggests her prior arrest record may have prompted a judge to order her incarceration.

ACLU attorney Yan, who is among the attorneys representing Hinton in the lawsuit, said Hinton’s prior arrest record should not be a factor in the lawsuit.

“We don’t think any of the underlying things are relevant to her claim in this lawsuit, which is based on her identity and the fact that her constitutional and statutory rights to be free from discrimination are being violated,” Yan said. “At the end of the day, Sunday is a transgender woman and she’s a woman and she deserves to be held according to her gender identity as she desires.”

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