Grassley Suggests LGBT People Aren’t Discriminated Against At Shelters

Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced an LGBT-inclusive version of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA), which aims to protect victims and survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Before it passed along party lines, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) objected to the protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, suggesting they were simply unnecessary:

GRASSLEY: The Leahy substitute would prohibit discrimination by grantees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Of course, I agree that shelters and other grant recipients should provide services equally to everyone. But advocates of this provision haven’t produced data that shelters have refused to provide services for these reasons. This is true even after we were told they would send a report on the subject. The provision is a solution in search of a problem. Instead, it is only a political statement that shouldn’t be made on a bill that is designed to address actual needs of victims.

Grassley is wrong on two counts. First, there are plenty of troubling data to show why the protections are necessary. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) both published studies last year that demonstrate how LGBT people have been refused protection by shelters:

  • In 2010, 44.6 percent of LGBT/HIV-positive survivors of intimate partner violence were turned away from shelters (NCAVP).
  • More than half of survivors (54.4 percent) were denied orders of protection (NCAVP).
  • 29 percent of homeless transgender people have been turned away by shelters (NGLTF).
  • 6 percent of transgender people report being denied equal access to domestic violence shelters and programs (NGLTF).

The other count on which Grassley is wrong is his basic reasoning. In this statement, he basically asserted that LGBT people have to first face discrimination before they deserve to be protected from it. One wonders how much “data” he expects the LGBT community to endure before he’ll deem it worthy of his compassion.