White House hosts forum on anti-LGBT hate violence

The White House hosted on Friday a first-of-its-kind forum dedicated to combating domestic and international bias-motivated violence against LGBT people, the Washington Blade has learned.

The closed-door event, which took place in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, allowed participants from around the world the opportunity to engage with administration officials on efforts by governments and private actors to address bias-motivated violence against LGBT people. Further, experts had the opportunity to discuss ways law enforcement, judges, legislatures, governments and civil society can collaborate to combat bias-motivated violence.

The White House confirmed the event took place, but because of its closed-door nature wouldn’t identify the participants. According to the Human Rights Campaign, U.S. Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons Randy Berry — who just returned from a trip to promote LGBT rights in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and the Dominican Republic — was set to speak at the event.

The event consisted of three panels: 1) community efforts to prevent and respond to violence; 2) The role of law enforcement and the judiciary and 3) government action as a tool to fight violence.

Representing HRC at the event was Deputy Director of HRC Global Jean Freedberg, HRC Legislative Counsel Remington Gregg and HRC Senior International Policy Advocate Jeremy Kadden.

The event takes place just days after the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs unveiled its annual report on anti-LGBT violence within the United States. According to the report, 80 percent of the 20 anti-LGBT murder victims reported to the organization last year were people of color and 55 percent of these victims were transgender.

Bias-motivated violence against LGBT people in the United States is considered a hate crime under the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which President Obama signed into law in 2009.

In 2011, Obama issued an administration-wide memorandum directing all agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons. The memo was made public on the same day that now Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in her then-capacity as secretary of state delivered a high-profile speech in Geneva on the importance of protecting LGBT human rights at an international level.

According to a White House fact sheet, the administration intends to build on the meeting by taking additional steps. They include launching “Justice Works,” a new initiative to support to civil society organizations and governments to respond to bias-motivated violence against LGBT people; facilitating a professional exchange project called “Preventing and Responding to Bias-Motivated Violence against the LGBT Community” to bring 13 civil society activists from 12 countries to the United States; and expanding the International Law Enforcement Academy Hate Crimes Course to additional ILEAs throughout the global program.

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